Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author
We are just over one month into 2021. Has your new-year’s resolution already become a thing of the past? If you’re having difficulty changing bad habits into good ones, you’re not alone! I’m going to give you five solid tips to make those new habits stick.
Before I begin, you need to know that we all have bad habits that overpower us when we attempt to introduce new habits. Therefore if you hope to change, it is unrealistic to expect to wake up with a whole new ‘you’. Change will take time. Be patient and be prepared to forgive yourself when you slip. Psychologists have stated that in order to internalize a behaviour or belief, you must first practice it. It’s called “behavioural activation”. So here are some simple tips to activate those new habits.
Understand why you really need to change. Take some time and write down:
1) How has your habit impacted you?
2) How has it hindered you from achieving personal, professional and spiritual goals?
3) What would be different in your life if you changed your habit?
If your list ends up being longer than you expected, don’t be discouraged. Be inspired! It is the first step in accepting the consequences of your habit and building motivation.
Start by setting a small, concrete goal. The first goal should be a step in the right direction but easily attainable. So if your goal is to eat healthier, instead of saying you’ll eat a salad with every dinner, you’ll start by having a salad with your Sunday dinners, when perhaps you have more time to prepare it.
You can assess how you did and try to determine what went well and what didn’t work. Finding success in the first attempts will make you feel good and encourage you to follow through and be persistent. After you complete your first goal, add on to it in small increments.
Stay motivated. If you are not successful at first, don’t be hard on yourself. Revisit your list to remind you why your cause is important. Shorten the time period and try to attain your small goal again. Maybe you decide every Sunday is too much of a major change. Maybe you change it to every other Sunday.
Once you begin to find success, you can challenge yourself by adding two or three more days. For example, you can now say, “I’ll have my salad on Sundays and Wednesdays”.
Find someone supportive you can inform about your goal. They can keep you accountable and provide you with encouragement. If you can find someone who has a similar goal, you can mutually support each other. It is reassuring to know that you’re not alone.
Consider surrounding yourself with reading material or videos regarding your habit. It could be self-help books, understanding your habit, facts about the consequences of your habit etc.
If you are dealing with an addiction, be aware of which situations make you feel tempted, anxious or pressured to give in to your habit. Try your best to keep yourself busy and avoid those situations.
If you feel your habit is harmful and you fear for your health, please dial 211 on your phone or visit 211toronto.ca to connect with a social service that addresses your needs and/or talk to your doctor.
If you’d like to learn more about building healthy habits, I recommend you search the following on YouTube: ‘SMART goals’, ‘cbt technique: behavioral activation’ and ‘neuroplasticity by Braive’.
Bio: Shereeza is a clinical counsellor and award-winning author. She works within the medical profession, and offers low-cost telephone counselling (647-334-4556). She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years and is now a regular contributor to the IIT Newsletter.