Five Ways to Break a Habit, or Start a Healthy One

Whether you’re cutting out food, television, or something else entirely, breaking old habits is easier than you might think.

Some experts say that it takes 21 days to break a habit and establish new patterns. The key is to stay focused—and remember why you’re aiming to break the habit, or start the new one, in the first place. Here are some tips to get started.

List the benefits. Make a list of all the reasons you’ve decided to get rid of an old habit, and refer to it often.

Find a new habit. A good way to break an old habit is to find a new one. Pick up a new hobby, commitment, or favorite food—something you enjoy doing or eating, and which is good for you, too—to replace the thing you’re getting rid of.

Choose the right time. Keep in mind that it’s almost never convenient to make a lifestyle change—work’s too busy, the kids are demanding, it’s the holidays. That said, after you determine that you’re not just making excuses, do what you can to implement change during a relatively low stress time.

Track your progress. Keep a journal noting your thoughts and actions: When do you think about the old habit? Did you have a slip up—and why? Keeping tabs on yourself will keep you more accountable and help you recognize the triggers that may encourage falling back into old habits.

Ask for help. Letting friends, family, and coworkers know what you’re trying to do can serve as an important way to stay on track.

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