Habit Swapping. How To Get Rid of Your Negative Habits For Good

Over the years, I've invested quite a bit of mental energy on eliminating bad habits.  I've tried some of the common advice you typically find online. A lot of those techniques haven't produced effective results.  Recently, I was inspired by a brilliant idea that might be the answer to getting rid of bad habits once and for all.
By definition, habits consist of certain behavior that's repeated over and over.  If we repeat an action enough times, we eventually embed that behavior into our subconscious.  Once it's accepted as a subconscious behavior, the habit becomes almost impossible to break.

The only solution might be to replace those habits with a new, corresponding action.  I like to call this habit swapping.  Basically, the plan is to swap out the unwanted action with a new (desired) one.  Preferably, you'd select the type of action that adds value to your life.

To start this habit swapping process, I thought briefly about each behavior I wanted to eliminate and assigned a new action that would take its place.  Here's a short list of what I came up with.

UNWANTED HABIT:  Snacking on sweets.
DESIRED HABIT: Brushing in between meals to prevent the desire to eat sweet foods.

UNWANTED HABIT: Mindlessly scrolling through social media.
DESIRED HABIT: Five to ten minutes of meditation or visualization.

UNWANTED HABIT: Laying on the couch for hours watching tv.
DESIRED HABIT: Incorporate "exercise snacking" in between commercial breaks.

UNWANTED HABIT: Leaving items laying around that I'm not using.
DESIRED HABIT: Incorporate small breaks where I clean/organize for a few minutes throughout the day.

If you pay close attention, you'll notice that each desired habit will produce a positive impact if practiced regularly.  If the desired habits turned into repeated actions, I would be fitter, my home would be more organized and I'd be more present and focused on reaching my goals.

Years ago, I read a book on mindfulness written from a scientific perspective.  One of the key lessons I learned was that mindfulness involves taking a mental inventory of all the alternatives available.  So instead of simply reaching for a treat every time I have a craving, I could ask myself, "what else can I do instead of blindly following my urges? Once I start coming up with alternate scenarios, I'm engaging in the act of mindfulness.  Essentially, I'm inviting my conscious mind to take part in the experience instead of simply repeating the same behavior without thought.

The concept is simple but implementing it is not.  Old habits die hard. This is a habit building process....which means that you'll sometimes forget to implement your new habit.  I often don't realize that my subconscious is driving my behavior until it's too late.  The good news is that you'll have plenty of opportunities to try habit swapping. If you mess up this morning, you try again later.  The key is to shorten the amount of time between taking the unwanted action and realizing that you could've done things differently. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you instantly come up with alternatives the minute your subconscious prompts you into doing something unwanted.

Try this as an experiment this week.  Habit Swapping is also a great tool for managing unwanted emotional responses to other people.  If you find yourself always getting frustrated, annoyed and reacting emotionally, ask yourself "in what other ways can I respond to this person?" If you give yourself a few moments, you'll come up with several possible alternatives.

Habit swapping, if done right, can help transform you into becoming the type of person you wish to be.  We're no longer just responding to our environment, we're living with intention. And that is the most powerful way to live.

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