Tag Archives: bad habits

Stop Procrastinating and Pre-Commit to Healthier Habits

Procrastinating can cost you so much more in healthcareWhat if I told you that we, as a nation, waste $317 billion a year in medical expenses just because of forgetfulness and procrastination? Research from Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, shows that the biggest healthcare issue facing the nation today is not illnesses related to smoking, excessive drinking or obesity due to overindulgence in bacon cheeseburgers, super-sized sodas and curly fries. No! It is what the healthcare industry calls “non-adherence” – not taking our medications as prescribed by the doctor, following guidelines and sticking to our promises to take better care of ourselves in general.

We all know the importance of diet and exercise. Yet, often times we just think up some lame excuse. My husband, for example, won’t eat dark, leafy greens as he claims he’s got supersensitive papillae on this tongue and therefore they taste way too bitter. And a friend of mine won’t get on what she terms the “Dread-mill,” even now in NYC when it’s too icy to walk outside, because she knew someone who caught her foot in the belt when it was moving and fell off. (Truth be told, I feel the same way about the “H-elliptical” machine!)

And how many people do all of us know who don’t sign up for a 401K even when it means they are losing out on the match made by their employer, just because they never “get around to it?” Voila! Procrastination at work!

Getting everyone to regularly focus on their health-related behaviors is the best method for combating issues ranging from obesity to missed doses of important maintenance medications. While the approach may be appealing, unfortunately, it may run headlong against millions of years of evolution. According to Bob Nease, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at Express Scripts, “Our brains, though amazing machines, simply are not made for continuous focus on anything that isn’t immediately painful or pleasurable. The gray matter in our heads can process about 10 million bits of information a second — the same bandwidth of the original Ethernet cable. Yet the conscious part, which we think of as our mind, can only process 50 bits every second. We are wired for inattention.” (Yikes! That’s a thousand times slower than dial-up!)

Ergo, the intent-behavior gap, which explains why we behave in ways detrimental to our health, despite our best intentions to do otherwise.

Nease cites Adam Davidson, who writes the weekly “It’s the Economy” column for The New York Times Magazine, as an example. Apparently, after a lifetime of trying and failing to lose weight, Davidson recently succeeded by committing to a program that left him no options. “Most diets and other good intentions fail because there’s always a third option — an easy way out — that allows us to tell ourselves we tried even while undermining our own success,” he explains. “And when we make a firm commitment that eliminates these escape routes, we are more likely to get results.”

According to Nease, there’s a concept known to behavioral science as ‘precommitment.’ The idea, in fact, was first documented as far back as the 8th Century BC. “In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus needed to sail his ship past the Sirens, who’s enchanting song tempted sailors to their deaths. So before entering those waters, he lashed himself to the ship’s mast so he could resist. His precommitment helped him stay the course.”

Nease contends, however, that he has yet to hear of a diet guru taking Odysseus’ approach literally –e.g., lashing our arms to the dining-room chair. “But some companies are working to make it easier for people to impose big financial penalties on themselves if they fail to meet their weight-loss goals. And precommitment strategies in the tradition of Odysseus propose a good way to navigate through modern life’s multitude of options and temptations to arrive at a healthier place.”

For their part, Express Scripts discovered, for example, that offering their employees the opportunity to precommit nearly tripled actual participation in a company exercise program. “If they agreed in advance to let us block the time on their calendar,” Nease insists, “they ultimately overcame the day-of excuses, showed up, and got in some good exercise.”

The real costs, both financially and heath-wise, come from non-adherence to taking prescribed medications. Forgetting to take a heart pill, for instance, could endanger your life. My husband must take the anti-blood clotting medicine Plavix thanks to his three coronary stents (hellooo filet mignons!!). His cardiologist doesn’t want him to miss even a single dose as that could mean a heart clog and possible death. (He always hides his pills when we have an argument, fearing that I will switch them for a placebo!)

Discipline and willpower are the simple answers, but remember what Bob Nease said about our being wired for inattention and inertia? Below are some simple pre-commitment techniques, starting with the ones I recommend to my audience:

• Use only smaller plates and eat in a room outside the kitchen, away from the refrigerator.

• Eliminate leftovers by buying food and preparing dishes in smaller quantities.

• Banish snack foods from the house. You can’t eat what you can’t find.

• If you’re a late riser, put the alarm clock across the room to avoid simply reaching over and swatting the Snooze — or worse, Off – button.

To precommit to your medications, I defer to Bob Nease:

• Tape a note to your refrigerator or set an alarm that will help make taking your pills part of your daily routine.

• Having your prescriptions delivered to your home in 90-day supplies has been proven to increase adherence.

• Check your prescription insurance plan to see if automatic refill reminders are available and how you can sign up to receive them.

• Long before you near the end of your final refill, schedule an appointment with your physician to renew the prescription. If you wait until the last minute, you might not be able to get there in time to stay on your therapy.

• Take advantage of being able to ‘opt out’ if your automatic enrollment gives you the choice. This approach leverages inertia – the opposite of patient engagement — by making you do something to stop the delivery.

No matter what method you use to pre-commit to all aspects of your personal wellbeing, remember that better decisions today lead to healthier results tomorrow. In other words, to feeling Better Than Before.

Deepak Chopra: 5 Steps to Take Charge of Your Wellness (Part 2)

Scale-Apple-Measuring-Tape-DietContinued from Part 1, here are the final 3 steps to take charge of your wellness:

Step 3: Identify Harmful Patterns

To change your negative habits, you have to know what they are. Some bad habits, like smoking and excessive drinking, are obvious, but others may be less so. Sitting all day is damaging to your health, even if you get half an hour of exercise or more before or after work. Depriving yourself of eight hours’ sleep for even a short period is also hard on the body in ways that sleep researchers are just beginning to fully recognize.

Forming a new habit takes repetition and focus, and if your attention is elsewhere you may have a harder time adjusting to new behaviors. For that reason, some experts advise against planning big changes if you are going through a particularly stressful period. I think that reasoning is wrong. Although it’s true that you are likely to have more setbacks at such times, it’s just as true that people change as a result of meeting challenges and crises: “Aha” moments occur quite often when somebody hits bottom.

Visualizing your desired outcome is a useful tool in your journey. “Seeing” yourself as you wish to be has helped smokers quit, obese people lose weight, and sports champions achieve their goals. In order to change the printout of the body, you must learn to rewrite the software of the mind. This truism is reinforced by brain scans that show a decrease in certain higher functions (making good decisions, following reason over impulse, resisting temptation) when a person falls into a pattern of giving in to a wide range of lower impulses, such as fear, anger, or simply physical hunger. You need to implement a healing regimen that encourages and rewards your good choices if you want brain pathways to follow suit.

Step 4: Make Steady Changes

Even though you are working on the big picture, for psychological reasons a series of small victories is desirable. In essence, you are training your brain to succeed. Most of us, having been defeated by old conditioning, take the course of least resistance, not realizing that we are training our brains into pathways that rob us of free will over time.

So begin with a victory you can define and which means something to you. Skip red meat for a week. Take the stairs, not the elevator. If you’re very out of shape, walk 10 minutes every day and gradually build up your time. Put down your fork halfway through your meal, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself if you’re still hungry. If you work at a desk, make it a rule to always stand or pace when you’re on the phone. Over time, what seem like baby steps produce new physiological changes in every cell of the body. Trillions of cells are eavesdropping on your every thought and action. Instead of pretending that your body doesn’t know what you’re doing, make yourself the gift of delivering good news to your cells.

In my view, the most important victories occur in awareness, however. If you tend to procrastinate, be aware of the reasons you do it. We get comfortable in our warm, fuzzy old routines, and making changes, even small ones, feels threatening psychologically, as if even a positive change is a risk. Predict when you will procrastinate and invent a strategy to outmaneuver your future self. For example, if you know you’ll be tempted to hit the snooze button instead of getting up for an early morning jog, put your exercise clothes across the room from your bed—with your alarm clock on top.

Step 5: Reinforce Good Decisions

Sometimes brain research underlines the obvious, but it is a breakthrough to observe MRI scans and see for yourself that good decisions “light up the brain” in ways that are different from bad decisions. In the larger scheme, when you undertake a wellness program, you will be faced every day with the choice to stay the course or abandon your mission. How does your brain make choices, then?

Executive control, which means choosing a thought or action to meet an internal goal, is managed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala play roles in regulating decision-making based on the memory of feelings. Regions of the midbrain in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is predominant also influence decision-making. Some of the choices that trigger dopamine’s release: eating sweet foods, taking drugs, having sex.

We may overindulge in chocolate cake because we tend to value the short-term outcome we know (deliciousness) over the long-term outcome we have never experienced (weight loss and increased energy from better nutrition). One way to break that cycle is to reward ourselves in a different way. Instead of eating cake, we can go play a game or listen to music.

How long does it take to form a new habit? An average of 66 days, according to a 2009 study from University College, London. Repetition and giving yourself time to adjust are the main factors in forming a new behavior pattern.

For more information go to: www.deepakchopra.com

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Originally published February 2012

Deepak Chopra: 5 Steps to Take Charge of Your Wellness

love

A basic outline for prevention has existed for more than thirty years, but wellness has had a hard time making real headway. Old habits are hard to break. Our society has a magic bullet fixation, waiting for the next miracle drug to cure us of every ill. Doctors receive no economic benefit from pushing prevention over drugs and surgery. For all these reasons, compliance with prevention falls far below what is needed for maximum wellness.

Rather than feeling gloomy, my focus has been on getting the individual to take charge of their own wellness. This can be a considerable challenge, since we are each unique in our bodies but also unique in our pattern of bad habits and poor lifestyle choices. More than 40% of American adults make a resolution to live a better life each year, and fewer than half keep their promise to themselves for longer than 6 months. Conditioning is hard to break, but the key is that the power to break a habit belongs to the same person who made it – the turnaround amounts to giving up unconscious behavior and adopting conscious new patterns.

Once your mind begins to pay attention, your brain can build new neural pathways to reinforce what you learn. Much is made of the brain’s ability to change and adapt – the general term is neuroplasticity – but I think science has been slow to catch up with wise experience. It has always been true that applying awareness in any form, through such things as resolve, discipline, good intentions, and mindfulness, has the power to create change. The practical dilemma is how to use your strengths and motivation to help yourself remain committed to wellness as a lifetime pattern.

Step 1: Set Goals by Baselining Your Health

The first step in taking control of your well-being is to set goals, and a sensible way to do this is to “baseline” your health. Gather some basic facts that realistically inform you about your body: weight, height, family history, exercise habits, general diet, and a self-assessment of your stress levels at work and in your home life.

Some experts would add medical measures that only a doctor can fully determine, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and other lipids levels, and bone density. My difficulty with these tests is that they encourage worry. Being in an anxious state is a bad motivator for most people. It can motivate you for as long as you remember to be afraid, but after that, people tend to give in to impulses, make erratic choices, and increase their own stress levels. With that in mind, I go against the grain of standard medical advice, at least partially, by saying that heeding these medical markers should come second, after you have already set yourself on a good wellness program for at least six months. Give consciousness a chance before you undermine it with potential anxiety.

How do you actually set your goals? Start thinking about the big picture. Changing poor lifestyle habits is rarely easy, especially if they comfort you, as smoking or overeating do for many people. You need a strong vision of what you want to achieve in order to succeed. I’d say the strongest vision comes from knowing about a simple trend: the latest research shows that more and more disorders, including most cancers, are preventable through a good wellness program. The benefits are increasing with every new study.

Step 2: Set Priorities

Making lists of your hot spots and your sweet spots will help you to set your personal priorities. The hot spots are weaknesses, the sweet spots strengths that crop up during an ordinary day. You can’t attack every bad pattern all at once; it’s good to achieve a series of small victories at first.

Hot spots: List the times you feel unhappy or most agitated—fighting a futile battle to get a good night’s sleep, perhaps, or recriminating yourself for ordering dessert when you were already full. Identify with clear sights your biggest challenges, such as getting to bed on time, reducing food portions, resisting sweets, choosing the couch over the treadmill, and so on. Doing this will help your mission take shape and direction.

Sweet spots: List the things that give you joy and satisfaction, for instance, spending time with your family or enjoying a favorite hobby. Recapture in your mind what it feels like to resist ordering dessert or to spend half an hour walking outdoors. Appreciating the sweet spots in your life is a source of strength as you embark on your habit-changing mission.

Steps 3, 4, & 5 coming up in the next post!

 

Originally published February 2012

Thursday Morning Melody: The Cigarette Duet

How many of you have had the cigarette conversation with a friend or loved one? Or perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of such an intervention? Either way, it might have gone something like this:

Friend: You really need to quit smoking.

Smoker: Yeah…

Friend: It can kill you.

Smoker: I know…

Touching on this important phenomenon with a bit of playful wit, New Zealand singer/songwriter Princess Chelsea lays it down in her song “The Cigarette Duet.” Off her debut solo album, “Lil’ Golden Book,” the song features Jonathan Bree of The Brunettes, who also shot the accompanying music video (which, by the way cost them nothing to make and immediately went viral.)

The song and video together are a comical look at the tension cigarettes can create in a relationship. The thick scent of smoke, cigarette breath, and money spent on endless packs are some factors that might cause discord, not to mention, of course, the ticking time bomb of lung cancer, mouth cancer, and heart disease. However irreverent, hopefully this song will inspire some real reflection on the bad habits we cling to, and the people we may hurt along the way.

It’s just a cigarette & it cannot be that bad
Honey don’t you love me and you know it makes me sad?
It’s just a cigarette like you always used to do
I was different then, I don’t need them to be cool

It’s just a cigarette and it harms your pretty lungs
Well it’s only twice a week so there’s not much of a chance
It’s just a cigarette it’ll soon be only ten
Honey can’t you trust me when I want to stop I can

It’s just a cigarette and it’s just a Marlboro Light
Maybe but is it worth it if we fight?
It’s just a cigarette that I got from Jamie-Lee
She’s gonna get a smack and I’m gonna give you three

It’s just a cigarette and I only did it once
it’s only twice a week so there’s not much of a chance
It’s just a cigarette and I’m sorry that I did it
Honey can’t you trust me when I want to stop I can

* * *

This post is part of  our Thursday Morning Melody series. Every Thursday we feature the music video and lyrics to a song that touches us deeply. If there’s a melody you wish to share with the Intent community, please share it with us in the comments below! Click here to listen to past Thursday Morning Melodies.

Want to Snack Less and Concentrate Better? Try This!

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 10.55.40 AMOkay, humor me here. This sounds silly, but it really works. Try the resolution to “Chew on a plastic stirrer.“

I’ve found that I snack less, and concentrate better, when I chew on a plastic stirrer–the kind that you get to stir your to-go coffee.

I picked up this habit from my husband, who loves to chew on things. His favorite chew-toy is a plastic pen top, and gnawed pen tops and little bits of plastic litter our apartment.

But he also chews on plastic stirrers, and at some point, I decided to give this practice a try. I’ve been astonished at how helpful this small habit is.

I keep these stirrers in my office and backpack, and whenever I sit down at my computer, I pop one between my teeth. An occupational hazard with writing is to write while eating, smoking, or drinking–usually things that aren’t very healthy–but having the stirrer in my mouth diminishes that urge. True, my urge to snack has plummeted since I’ve started eating along the lines suggested by Gary Taubes’s book Why We Get Fat, but this habit has cut down it down still further.

Also, chewing on a stirrer helps me to concentrate. I feel more focused when I’m chewing away. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s the placebo effect–but the placebo effect is quite effective, so I’ll take it.

I’m a devoted hair-twister, so I definitely have an aptitude for nervous habits. Chewing on a plastic stirrer probably the adult equivalent of popping in a pacifier, but it’s effective.

How about you? Do you ever chew on plastic stirrers, straws, pencils, ice or other things? Or do you have other habits that are similarly helpful?

Become ‘Better Than Before’ with the Power of Intent

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.38.38 AMAll of us suffer from something. It could be as simple as an irritating or unhealthy habit like nail biting, jaw clinching, or smoking, to more complex issues like chronic stress, fears, and phobias of every nature variety. Other issues could be low self-confidence, and/or limiting beliefs like feeling unworthy or “less than” in some way. To that end, I am often asked two questions: What does it take to become Better Than Before? And can I change my life overnight?

I wish I were a (fake) clairvoyant like Simon Baker in “The Mentalist” and be able to predict that all great things will happen in your imminent future. (I once asked my brother, “What if I had true psychic powers?” “What if a piano fell on your head,” he responded.) Alas, I can’t. And there are no instant fixes or magic bullets. You have to do it all by yourself. The whole concept of being Better Than Before implies change of some sort; moving in some way by small increments from where you are to where you want to be. That change can be physical, emotional or spiritual. But in reality, all change involves all three energies.

My expert Dr. John McGrail, a renowned clinical hypnotherapist, personal improvement expert, spiritual teacher, and author of the bestselling The Synthesis Effect, picks it up from here. “One of the most powerful ingredients in harnessing one’s energies to create change is the energy of intention or intent,” he tells me. “If we look at the dictionary definition of intent we see words like purpose, motive, aim, design, and goal; and next to these words we see descriptors like, keen, resolute, sincere, serious, and diligent.”

Dr. McGrail goes on to say that no change, nothing new, in fact, can happen without a purpose, aim or goal. “An artist cannot create art, an athlete cannot compete, a student cannot learn, a business cannot profit, a writer cannot write, a person cannot lose weight, build self-confidence, or change anything about themselves and their life,” he contends. In other words, it is impossible to become Better Than Before without the energy of intent. Intent is the bridge between desire and achievement. “Therefore, it’s not such a stretch to say that intent is indeed the ultimate and universal, motive force behind all creation.”

Yet, for many people defining intent as the creative force of the universe is a bit too abstract a concept to easily integrate and employ. “We desire something more practical and pragmatic,” continues Dr. McGrail. So let’s try this definition: “Intent is laser-sharp focused thought and action dedicated to producing a result. The result in this case, of course, is whatever you wish to change.” Let’s call it your New You, the you that is Better Than Before, that is.

Dr. McGrail emphasizes that it is vital to recognize that two energies must be brought to bear. We need to employ both thought and action. Either one without the other and nothing much happens; or if it does happen, it may take a very long time. “Many of the latest books and films dealing with quantum reality and the Law of Attraction mention the necessity to focus one’s thoughts on what one desires; but they most often minimize and sometimes completely neglect the need to act on those thoughts as well. If you don’t do something to take you through the process—choose, act, etc.—then, well, as they say, ‘you can’t get there from here.’”

He further explained to me that two points become very clear with this concept: First, the desire, aim, and motive to create your Better Than Before ‘New You’ must absolutely be your own. “If you try to change yourself because someone either wants you to for their sake or thinks that by changing something about yourself will make you a better person,” he says, “then bringing the required intent will be difficult, if not impossible, particularly for creating a long-term effect. It may work in the short run, but almost never if you want it to be permanent — and if you want to be happy about it.”

Second, the degree of focus, laser-sharp, becomes very important in producing efficacy. “Think of light energy,” he suggests. “A light bulb does a fine job of illuminating a room with a fuzzy cloud of light. But if you concentrate and focus light energy enough you can create a beam that is brighter and sharper. And if you continue to focus them more, that very same energy—light—becomes a laser, a device obviously far more versatile and incredibly more powerful than any light bulb.”

The same, in fact, holds true for intent and the process of change. According to McGrail, the more we concentrate our thoughts and actions on our desired outcome, the more quickly and efficiently we can and will produce the result. And while this seems simple enough, we in modern Western society tend to have significant challenges with focus; we are distracted by a million different sources of input, technologies, and media; we have come to almost worship the act of multi-tasking (even though I’m convinced that my brain was designed to focus on only one thing at a time); and so we are easily distracted, and thus, the energy of intent can become diffused and eventually powerless. And there goes our result.

Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and techniques that can help us refocus. And “one of the most powerful is a simple, consistent practice of meditation; a natural state of consciousness that creates incredible mental focus and clarity, just what we need to power our intent,” Dr. McGrail concludes.

To that end, here is his easy yet dynamic meditative exercise that will greatly speed the process of becoming Better Than Before:

1) At least once a day, every day, find a place where you can sit quietly and comfortably and be free of all distractions and disturbances.

2) Close your eyes and let them relax completely; let your eyelids feel limp and languid, so heavy that they simply won’t open unless you force them open.

3) Relax your jaw completely; let all the tension that you have stored in your jaw – usually a lot more than we think – melt away. Feel your lower jaw just drop and droop.

4) Take 21 slow, deep, gentle breaths. Breathe all the way in, and all the way out, nice and slowly; and keep count. If you lose track, start over. (You almost surely will at first, but with practice you will get better.)

5) When you reach 21, picture, visualize, or imagine looking at yourself having made the change you are wanting. What does that New You look like, feel like, act like? Stay with the imagining until you can feel the energy of it, the absolute delight of being your “new” you. Hold onto the image and the feeling for as long as it feels comfortable.

The key to this exercise is consistency. When you visualize or imagine your New You and stay with it until you feel it, you are in fact creating that energy within you by reprogramming your subconscious computer. And I guarantee you will become Better Than Before!

Deepak Chopra: Are You Addicted?

In this episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explores the relationships between addiction, health, and the search for higher consciousness. There are many different forms of addictions, from drug addiction, to thrill-seeking, to clinging to toxic relationships. Some seek adventure, others security, pleasure, numbing, or energy. In any case, as Deepak relays, an addiction entails not getting enough of something you really don’t need in the first place.

Do you notice any addictive patterns in your own life?

By bringing attention to our own dependence on certain substances and sensations we may begin to extricate ourselves from these unhealthy patterns. Setting an intent for real growth and healing is the perfect place to start.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak Chopra’s course “Freedom from Addiction“!

How To Get “Him” To Change

Crossed fingers IJanuary signals a fresh start, at least the noble intention of transformation. This kind of change consists of either sweeping resolutions, or small-step evolutions for personal goals.  However, what if the person you live with does not entertain even the slightest thought about change, let alone a glorious transformation?  Many women who read self-help books have absorbed the notion that “if I change my own dynamics, everyone around me will change.” So does this strategy work in reality?

When you change your dynamics, it means that you have tweaked your absolute perceptions towards greater flexibility. For example:

  • You become more positive and forgiving in reframing annoyances, telling yourself a much better story. For instance, he misses the hamper as his socks land on the bathroom floor because he is distracted by stressful work issues and is not taking you for granted.
  • You work on your self-growth and lead by example.  You concentrate on your own stressors rather than shifting to his as the root cause of your unhappiness.
  • You accept him as he is. When you spotlight his strengths, he mirrors himself in you, inspired to keep developing his abilities.  He could potentially fulfill your positive prophecy.
  • You introspect about your “Home Rage.” Why are your buttons being pushed? When he is infuriating, you return to your core feelings asking yourself what you are not seeing about his side.

What not to do:

  • Don’t adopt the dictator to doormat attitude. When you become passionate about your own transformation, resist the temptation to preach and to judge.
  • Don’t make your home an unsafe haven. Do you possess self-doubts which might have led to disliking yourself and could this unhappy self possibly have been transmitted to him causing him to think that you are unhappy with him? Could this conclusion make him feel insecure and anxious about your connection?  Ultimately, would you be able to improve in this anxious environment?
  • Don’t become self-absorbed. It’s not always about you. Self-improvement is not about control, but rather pooling your best resources together: Your spouse, your children, even the in-laws.

If all else fails regarding changing your spouse’s “bad habits,” then you have to speak your honest mind: Say no when you are depleted, communicate clearly and succinctly the chores you need to delegate and ultimately let some tasks fall by the wayside for the sake of fun – the kind of fun the two of you used to have together most of the time.

photo by: Katie Tegtmeyer

8 Ways to Change “Their” Bad Habits

Most people may not admit it, but when they start living with “the person they fell in love with and would never change for the world,” they suddenly will do anything in their power to change their loved one’s habits – for their own good of course! These changes include better communication and intimacy, health management, financial well-being and work/life balance. Because it is difficult to influence or change another person, they often experience defeat. Many relationships dissolve because of a simmering resentment in the dynamics between changer and changee.

“Why are you always trying to change me?”

“I have outgrown you!”

Instead of trying all the old ways of changing the person you love, try creating some new questions around the issue you’re wanting changed and exploring them together. “I know you don’t like eating healthy, but how might there be some benefit  if you did?” Make sure to avoid a negative question like, “Why haven’t you ______?” No one likes an interrogation or a command.

Here are 8 effective ways to change a loved one’s bad habits:

  •  Accept that everyone is free to choose his or her own behaviors. Know that people tend to respond negatively when they are ordered to change.
  •  Make sure that time is on your side. If the person is stressed, choose a better time.
  •  Lighten up. Find the good within the bad of the habit you wish to change. Someone who is messy might have a creative mind which is associative as opposed to sequential. Help this person focus on one aspect of their creativity.
  •  Give approval and compassion when trying to reinforce a step in the right direction, much more persuasive to augment a strong point than to criticize a weak one. “When you don’t eat junk food in front of the TV at night, I feel that you love me. I want to keep you around. What would I do without you?”
  •  Emphasize what’s in it for them – the benefit they will accrue – not you.
  •  Lead by example and show rather than tell. Live the change for them to observe. Plan and execute together with activities. If you want your loved one to be more active, take a hike or bike ride together.
  • Tell the story. Watch a movie together reflecting the change you wish to take hold. How does the protagonist do it? Give them a book or song about the change. People remember and respond to the story and there is a level of objectivity watching a character commit to a change.
  •  Do not nag, or dwell on what you want changed. Show encouragement by letting your loved one know that he or she can do it, that they can find it within if they slide.
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photo by: Ed Yourdon