How to Change Unhealthy Habits for Good

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Changing unhealthy habits doesn’t come easily. Sometimes, you could use a little help. Whether you’re going cold turkey, are trying to swap an unhealthy habit with a healthier one, or are cutting down bit by bit, the road ahead is a winding one.

That doesn’t make change impossible, though—not even close. I know you can alter your bad habits once and for all. And I have two tools up my sleeve that will help you do it. Allow me to introduce them to you:

Tool #1: Positive Emotion Attractors, or PEAs

Emotions play a key role when you decide to make a change. A Positive Emotion Attractor is what will make you certain that you can accomplish whatever goal you’re setting for yourself. PEAs are your hopes, dreams, possibilities, strengths, and optimism. It’s your perception of what you most aspire to be as opposed to negative emotions, which focus on our fears, problems, and shortcomings.

The PEA also promotes a “rest and digest” state in your nervous system. This is when you’re feeling calm, joyful, and full of ease. When you’re in this state, your range of possibilities become available.

Visualizing the desired outcome is key. For example, let’s say you create a PEA based on a value in your life. It could sound something like this:

“I want to show up feeling well, vibrant, and engaged. I want to age gracefully.” The emotions this PEA promotes are elation, peace, and love of life.

Setting these positive emotion-backed intentions will come in handy when you want to turn less desirable nutrition habits to more favorable ones. It could also align with paying more attention to sleep practices and daily movement.

But this particular PEA could even go beyond the typical changes we tend to make to our lives to improve our wellness. It could help you create better boundaries with work travel. Maybe you might select different travel times so that feel more relaxed so you’re not adding extra and unnecessary stress.

As you plan your travel (or any other situation that adds stress to your life), you can check in with your PEA before making choices. Ask yourself how you will feel if you choose option A versus option B. In this case, that question could look like, “If I take the red eye, will I feel engaged and ready to work when I arrive?” The answers could be: option A, no, find a different solution; or option B, yes, book the flight.

Let’s try an experiment. I want you to imagine the emotions you feel related to this PEA.

Here’s a situation to envision: You’re about to break down for the third time this week and overindulge again in the chocolate cake sitting on your kitchen counter. You know, the one that made you toss and turn in bed all night thanks to the caffeine and sugar, and wake up feeling sluggish and bloated a few days ago? Yep, that one.

Got that? Well, on top of it, the next morning, you also have an important event—a business meeting or a family affair. You have to be on and you want to be on, to show up alert, excited and vibrant and ready to participate fully.

So, as you’re staring at that chocolate cake, ready to give in, focus, instead, on your PEA. Know that if you skip it this time, you’ll sleep well. You’ll wake up energized and comfortable in your own skin. And you’ll arrive at that event loving life and eager to be involved.

See how focusing on your PEA can help you show up for your values the way you want to? Even though you’re giving up the instant gratification of the chocolate cake, the positive emotions you’ll feel upon the outcome will be worth the choice to sacrifice the indulgence.

Leaning into your Positive Emotion Attractor will help you think positive, feel positive, and be positive, all of which will make you believe that you can conquer anything. You will feel open to the possibilities before you. You’ll think more creatively and expansively. You’ll come up with new solutions to problems you’ve struggled with and you’ll feel the confidence you need to enact them.

Tool #2: Character Strengths

You’ve been operating by your character strengths all your life—and talking up the strengths of your friends and family, too. I bet you didn’t know, though, that character strengths don’t exist just as descriptors of who you are and how you live your life. You can use your character strengths to create goals and motivate yourself to achieve them.

The VIA Character Strengths Survey is one of my favorite coaching tools to use when I’m helping clients change their habits or routines to improve their overall health, wellness, and quality of life. The free survey shows you to what degree you possess each of the 24 unique character strengths. Once you know what your primary strengths are, you can begin to create plans to achieve your goals that cater to those strengths.

For example, let’s say you want to go to the gym more. Every year, you make a different resolution designed to get you using that monthly membership: You’re going to join a Biggest Loser competition! You’re going to go to yoga twice a week! You treat yourself to a FitBit or new sneakers. But the resolution still isn’t sticking.

Now, let’s say you take the survey and you discover that your strengths are love-of-learning and love. Knowing that, we could conclude that your resolutions aren’t connecting with your strengths. And those goodies you’re buying? They’re not enough to get you out the door.

Instead, you should cater to your love-of-learning by trying something completely new, an activity that’s foreign to you that will require a learning curve, like Tai Chi or kickboxing. Or, given your love strength, you should try using workouts as a relationship-building activity. Go with a sibling, a friend, or a significant other.

Ready to finally change those habits?

That’s where I come in. I work one-on-one with my clients to help them figure out the habits and routines they can change for the better. Whether they want to improve their diet, better manage chronic conditions, or improve their overall wellness, I coach them toward achieving their personal goals. PEAs and Character Strengths are just some of the tools from my toolkit that have already proved successful with my clients.

Let’s put an end to your bad habits. Together, we can make it happen. Click here to set up a consultation today.