A GUIDE TO LETTING GO OF BAD HABITS

A GUIDE TO LETTING GO OF BAD HABITS - This Wild Home

At the beginning of the month, I decided to challenge myself to a full month of blogging. There were a lot of reasons I wanted to do this. I wanted to see how capable I was of creating a constant stream of content, even on a whim. I wanted to see how much passion I truly had for blogging and writing. And really, I wanted to push myself to do more.

You see, I’ve always been one to go easy on myself and give myself breaks, even in moments where I may have needed a push. I’m not great at follow through. Almost everything I tell myself I have to do falls to the side and I always end up back in the same place: bored on the couch watching the same TV show for the millionth time.

I’m no stranger to bad habits and routines. I’ve been a smoker, a drinker, an avid shopper, etc. Those little things that can help you slip out of your reality for a moment are really hard to kick. It takes a lot of effort an determination to find a way to let go of bad habits and make a better life for yourself.

So I have some experience in letting go of bad habits and making some better ones for myself. This challenge, that I am currently completing as I write this post, was one of those habit kickers that I needed to push myself to meet my full potential. It was a way for me to get out of a rut and drudge through a little drudgery to get to a place where I was doing something that I could be proud of.

THE GUIDE

Bad habits come in all shapes and sizes. From major drug addictions to food addictions to TV or video games. Now, I’m not about to say that if you have a major, debilitating addiction this will help you outright in turning things around. But if you’re at the point of recognizing you can do more and it’s time to make a change, these are some tips on how to kick the habits that are holding you back.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

  • THIS IS NOT AN OVERNIGHT PROCESS

    You have to keep in mind that just adding a habit to your day takes at least 30 days to get familiar with and even longer to make it a second nature activity. Beyond that, removing a bad habit from your life is almost harder to accomplish and takes a while to really overcome. It’s going to be a pretty persistent struggle for at least 2 weeks to a month and it’s definitely possible that no matter how long it’s been since you let go of a habit, you’ll still find yourself craving it. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel free of a habit right away, if ever. The point is that you’re trying which is really all that matters.

  • YOU’LL PROBABLY SLIP

    Or maybe you won’t. If you don’t fall back into your bad habit, at least a little bit, you are a super human and you should be very proud of yourself (I’m being serious but there’s no way to type that without it looking sarcastic). If you do slip, that doesn’t mean there’s no hope and it doesn't mean you have to start over. It just means you’re a human who can’t fight their own desires 24/7 which is extremely normal. If you fall back into old habits, just reevaluate and try again.

  • IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ALL OR NOTHING

    This is a choice you have to trust yourself to make. For some, kicking a bad habit just means cutting back and having rules. For others, it means having a pretend restraining order against something in order to prevent it from taking over. Sometimes it means taking as much time as you need away from something until you feel you can be responsible with it. This is where you can decide what will help you the most. I know for me, if I decide to quit anything cold turkey, I will binge it so hard and never turn back. So I just have to limit my intake in order to help myself make more responsible choices.

  • DON’T TAKE THEM ALL ON AT ONCE

    I would say most of us have many bad habits, big and small. We may even continue to pick up bad habits through our life time. Really, the job of becoming a better human is never done. So don’t try and take on all of your bad habits at once. Just do one at a time. It may feel like you’ll be stuck in your bad habits forever if you don’t take them all on at once, but you’ll be much more effective if you let go of one at a time. You may even find that once you start letting go of bad habits, the rest of them will become a little easier to remove from your life.

LETTING GO OF BAD HABITS

FIGURE OUT WHY IT’S A BAD HABIT

This is the best way to find your motivation to let it go. There’s a few ways to get to the route of a bad habit to find the real, deep down source.

  • Is it a physical or emotion dependency? Or maybe both?

  • What does it make you feel when you partake in the bad habit?

  • What are you missing when you don’t have it?

So as an example: cigarettes. A classic bad habit. When I was smoking cigarettes regularly, it was a physical dependency that was exacerbated by emotions. It was like a pacifier for me anytime I was upset. It was my guaranteed 5-10 minutes of dealing with life whenever I needed a break. It made me feel calm and confident when I’d have a cigarette and when I didn’t have one, it became hard for me to process whatever was going on around me.

I’ve also got shopping as a bad habit. It’s totally emotional. When I’m feeling insecure or upset or I want to reinvent myself, buying something new is a way for me to fill whatever void I’ve found to make me better as a person. A new shirt will make me look better when I’m feeling bad about my physical appearance. A new home item can make me feel capable to take on whatever thing I’ve decided I need to get into. If I can’t buy the new thing to make myself feel better, I get stuck in a ball of shame because I’m not getting the satisfaction of improving myself or my surroundings with something new.

So yes, understanding these things has really helped me to get to the route of the habit and find other ways to cope with whatever cigarettes or shopping was “solving.”

FIND YOUR TRIGGERS

There’s always that thing that happens that leaves you craving your bad habit. Whether it’s simply morning time or feeling stuck and needing a change. There are so many things that can become triggers for bad habits. It can be simply having a routine that includes your bad habit to feelings or occurrences that you may be less aware of or ready for. There are even some bad habits that trigger other bad habits.

TV for me is definitely a habit with triggers. Usually as soon as I put my son down to sleep, I sit down and turn on the TV without even thinking (which then leads to me binge eating really unhealthy food, another bad habit). It’s become a very unproductive part of my routine that seemed so natural and innocent that I didn’t realize how harmful it really was for me. Giving into these little trigger made me feel like I had no time. No time for writing, reading, drawing, anything really. No time for my husband and no time for myself. There became a huge divide in my life all because I’d simply sit down and watch TV during nap times rather than engage in the world around me.

Drinking on the other hand, my trigger was, I don’t know… 3 o’clock? It was emotionally numbing at a time in my life when I really didn’t want to feel anything so feeling anything was a trigger. It took over my afternoons and nights (and then mornings and early afternoons if you want to count the awesome hangover I had nearly every day). The triggers that made this become regular were not ones that I could predict. Sometimes it wasn’t even anything that happened to me, but within me. It made it very difficult to catch the triggers because they weren’t as obvious as putting a baby to sleep (don’t worry, I kicked this habit before I even got pregnant with my son).

So identifying the triggers may be difficult, but it’s important to take the time. Sometimes understanding the route of the habit can help you find the triggers too.

REPLACE THE HABIT

So once you’ve gotten to know your habit really well, I’ve found it much easier to kick the habit by replacing it with a better one.

That was this challenge for me. Rather than sitting down and watching TV the minute I put my son down for a nap, I would write a blog post. At the beginning of the month, I’d usually rush through the post and then sit down for an episode or two. But as the month has progressed, my writing has triggered more productivity to where somedays, I don’t turn the TV on at all.

Cigarettes on the other hand, that was a more difficult one. A typical day was: wake up, have a cigarette. Make coffee, have a cigarette. Have a cigarette on my way to work. Have a cigarette after work. Basically, as soon as one activity was done, I’d have a smoke break and then move onto the next thing. So pretty much my whole day was a trigger.

When you find you spend the majority of a day on something, it may be worth it to change your routine all together. I pretty much gone through and added better habits throughout my day one thing at a time. It didn’t happen all at once, but little by little, I created a routine that gives me a little more of what I need everyday which leaves me wanting my bad habits a lot less.

  • I started by simply waking up and making my bed. This led to brushing my teeth which led to washing my face and getting dressed and then one day, I was eating breakfast without a single cigarette in sight. Waking up triggered a new, much more productive habit.

  • But then there was the after breakfast TV that I needed to get rid of. So instead, finishing breakfast became a trigger to clean up the dishes and the table which led to cleaning the house which led to me actually doing the necessary chores to keep a house running that I never did before.

  • But then the after-I-put-my-son-to-bed TV. The, from 6:30 - 10 TV that I really didn’t need. The, I just didn’t know better than to just turn the TV on, TV. Well, instead I’d take a bath. But I got bored in the bath so I started reading which means I actually read books now. And then, to avoid the after bath TV, I added a podcast hour with my husband to give us some quality time to learn something fun together. And after that, after the whole day is done, I can indulge in a little TV before bed which I think is totally reasonable and doesn’t make me feel guilty at all.

So if you’re having trouble establishing your triggers or kicking your habits, just take a look at your day. Start with one habit to add when you wake up and let it work as a domino effect on your day. If you’re diligent and active in making this work, eventually you’ll finish a whole day and realize you didn’t even think about your bad habit.

Again, it’s not an over night process. Most of my habits took me years and a major life change to overcome. The important thing is that you try. As long as you’re trying, you’re doing something right.

I’M NOT PERFECT AND THAT’S OKAY

I’M NOT PERFECT AND THAT’S OKAY - This Wild Home

I feel like it’s really easy to get caught up in sharing all the ways our lives are working. The moments we feel in love, the days our kids are being cute and sweet, the meals we make that are absolutely gorgeous.

It’s not as fun to share the bad moments. On one hand, it’s not picture perfect. On the other, the negative things in our lives feel way more personal than the good. The good is encouraging. It’s not heavy. It doesn’t involve affirmations or putting your problems on an awkward pedestal. Anything negative is best hidden away in our homes and in our minds. Not on our feeds or in our posts.

I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing to limit the negativity we share. I don’t love to be around people that spend all their time airing their dirty laundry. Being too wrapped up in the negative things is also not good.

But when you’re someone like me who has a desire to help people better their lives through sharing their own experiences, it’s important to sometimes open up about the fact that your life isn’t perfect. That even if you have a million things figured out, there’s still a million other things you’re still working on.

MY LIFE ISN’T PERFECT AND THAT’S OKAY

I give a lot of advice about kids and relationships and mental health, but that doesn’t mean I am the best wife or mother or person in the whole entire world. I have so much that I’m learning. My standards are set but they can change. There’s always new studies, new information, new ways of doing things to try. The best I can do is share what works right now and be humble about the things I don’t know anything about.

So for the sake of being open and letting you know that you’re not inadequate just because you may not know everything, here are all the things I’m still working on.

FOOD

We don’t eat the most healthy meals every single day. Sometimes not even every week. My son still eats sugary fruit snacks and food that comes in plastic packages that’s been processed to the nines. I’m trying to buy healthier groceries. I attempt to make things here and there, I do try. But still, our meals are half home made (and half of that is from processed, packaged food) and half from fast food restaurants. We don’t eat enough fruit and veggies and when we do, it’s not always organic or non-GMO or whatever else it’s supposed to be.

Some of this depends on my mood and some of it depends on how much money is in the budget that week.

I’ve learned tricks and all of the tricks I’ve learned, I’ve shared. But I’m not perfect and honestly, sometimes fruit snacks are just easier.

HOME

Our house is not spotless. I don’t sweep the floors every time I should. I wait too long to clean the bathrooms and I still have no idea how exactly I want our kitchen counters set up to reduce the clutter. I don’t know how to manage every piece of clutter that comes into our home and we still have a lot of upgrades that will need to be made over time. We have an old rug with stains. A 5 year old, cheap Ikea couch that has been through hell and back. We’ve collected a lot of hand-me-downs and made frivolous purchases in a whim that don’t fit an aesthetic of any kind.

We have a lot of stuff we don’t need and need a lot of stuff we don’t have. Nothing is specifically curated, but I’m working on it.

My goal is to have a beautiful house with items I love where every corner is perfectly instagrammable at any moment. I have spaces I love and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at figuring out how to keep my home clean enough, but my home is no where near perfect in the slightest. As I find home hacks, I share them, but I’m still learning everyday how to make a home feel like home.

MINIMALISM, SLOW LIVING, AND ZERO WASTE

The big buzzwords of the day. I love the idea of each and every one of these things. I will recommend adding these mindsets and lifestyles into anyone’s life. I’ve figured out how to add these big ticket items as major focuses and factors in my life and decision making, but I’m not perfect by any standard.

I still shop. I still mindlessly shop. I still buy things that I know I don’t need just to fill a void in a moment of weakness. I buy from big box stores. Strolls through target where I buy some plastic thing with tons of packaging is still a loved pastime of mine. I forget to be patient about projects and activities. I buy cheap items and wasteful items. I still have paper towels in my kitchen and pretty much all of my clothes are bought without a thought put into the purchase from a fast fashion store.

I’m learning how to make my home minimal and sustainable. I’m working on focusing on the little things and taking in small moments like drinking a good cup of coffee or simply sitting outside and watching the wind blow. I get so excited in the moments where I’ve figured something out to help myself and others engage in these lifestyles. But I’m not perfect. I haven’t mastered anything and I’m still learning how to include these things into my daily life. As I learn, I share, as with everything. But I can never claim that I’m perfect at any of these things.

RELTIONSHIPS

The advice I give for relationships comes from many trial and error experiences. Every lesson I’ve learned about people and relationships has been the hard way and every piece of advice I give is intended to help as many people as possible to not have to learn the hard way.

I’m a hermit for the most part. I have a few people I keep in touch with, but I mostly just sit at home with my very select few (being Ian and Oliver). I have friends I wish I kept in touch with, conflicts I could’ve handled with much more care. I have many, many moments I regret. I haven’t been the perfect sister or daughter or friend or wife. I’ve only just recently learned how to be a little good at all of those things. And even still, I’m still learning. I get insecure, I get afraid. I have moments where I’m convinced I will never be enough to deserve care of any kind and in turn, I make choices to not care for others in advance.

But I’m learning. I learn everyday in my marriage how to be better. Sometimes, I’m great at it; but most of the time, I’m learning.

We have moments where we fight. We bicker at least once a day and I can guarantee we haven’t mastered married life by any means. Do we love each other? Do we Try our best? Absolutely. Are we perfect in anyway? Not in the slightest.

When I discover something that helps us move forward or helps me to move a little closer in my other relationships, I share it. But my advice will never be a claim to perfection.

MOTHERHOOD

This one is a hard one you guys. Pretty much everyone who shares their motherhood experience seems like they have perfectly behaved and caring children who never watch TV and have a better wardrobe than anyone. They appear to eat clever snacks and somehow all of them like kale for some reason.

Motherhood is one of those things where having a community of people to relate to is extremely helpful and reassuring. Having people around that go through what you do really just helps you get through it. But sharing your negative experiences motherhood is almost a sin. Admitting that you don’t love every moment or that you make mistakes is terrifying. Sometimes I honestly feel like if I were to share a stream of my whole day with my son, someone would decide I was doing something morally wrong and call child services or something. People are INTENSE about childcare and everyone has different standards and morals for what is right and what is wrong.

I get it. Kids need advocates and I’ve even been one to share my opinion on certain parenting styles for the sake of the kids.

But it’s never to say I’m perfect. It’s never to say I don’t have bad days. I can at least refrain from horribly scarring my son, but that doesn’t mean I don’t grab a pillow to scream in as he’s running to get into something he’s not suppose to for the millionth time that hour. We definitely watch too much TV and he totally screamed just the other day at a very quiet coffee shop. I have to walk away sometimes and lock myself in a room. Sometimes there are even tears that follow that out of frustration and anger and disappointment that I have to be the bad guy sometimes and make my son hate me to the point of refusing a pre-bedtime hug and kiss at the end of the day.

I could write a novel on how not everyday of motherhood is a dream of cuteness and love. I will always be the first to say that I have no idea what I’m doing and when I do figure something out that sort of works, I’ll be the first to tell you to not take my word for it. It’s important to figure out this mothering stuff for yourself, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone which is why I feel the need to say: don’t worry sister. I’m not perfect either.

I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO SHARE THE HARD TIMES SOMETIMES

I think it’s really important for me to share that, along with everything I’ve learned, I’m still learning new things everyday.

If you feel like you don’t have anything figured out, you’re not alone. If you feel like there are more bad days than good days sometimes, I feel your pain.

If you think you’re the only one who’s kid screams in public or who’s marriage isn’t perfect or who’s home isn’t carefully curated or who hasn’t mastered all the buzzword lifestyles…

Let me be the first to tell you, I'm right there with you.

HOW AND WHY I JOURNAL

HOW AND WHY I JOURNAL - This Wild Home

I was never one to keep a diary. I mean, I had notebooks that I would get out when I was feeling a lot of things all at once, but nothing consistent at all.

I’m extremely internal with most everything, but I’m also really good about letting out whatever I need to so I never felt like I needed much assistance in the thinking and processing parts of my life. I was very wrong. I never realized how much journaling can help you process and get things out before letting out things you may want to take back later. It’s a tool that could be utilized by so many of us to help improve our sanity within the chaos of simply trying to live and move forward in life.

So journalling is a recent thing for me. It took my a while to really get on board because you see all the posts that say journaling is a great thing to do right when you wake up or right before you go to bed. So for some reason I felt like, because I didn’t feel compelled to journal at those times, I just wouldn’t journal at all. Then I realized, that’s dumb..

Journaling is not reserved for those of us who have a lot of free time or time for slow mornings or energy for thoughtful nights.

It’s for anyone with a mind that can get overwhelmed by everyday life. For anyone who has thoughts that go through their head that need to be sorted through or remembered. It’s for keeping track of right now while letting go of what’s happened in the past and figuring out how to make things happen in the future.

A journal is like a hard-drive for keeping our minds clear and our thoughts organized.

HOW I JOURNAL

At this point, I try to journal everyday. Whatever moment I can find to write anything, even if it’s “I don’t have much to think about to day” I will take it. I don’t always make it to my notebook or feel like filling any pages, but I always notice a difference in my mood and the quality of my day when I get a chance to journal a bit.

WHEN I’M ALONE

This is when I do my best processing. When my husband is off doing something and I can sit by myself with no distractions and no one around to catch a glimpse of what I’m writing.

For me, a journal is a brain dump for anything and everything. But it’s really hard to think completely uninhibited when you’re constantly distracted by the needs of kids or when there are people near by that could potentially peer into every corner of your mind. Even when it’s people I will probably reiterate every word to, I like to process it on my own. So I love to find a time when I’m alone and can pour my thoughts onto the page, no matter how significant or trivial they may be.

WITH A GOOD DRINK

Coffee, tea, wine, a cocktail, beer, whatever. Just something. I don’t know why a tasty drink is the perfect writing companion, but for me, it get’s all my brain waves kickstarted and makes it a luxurious moment just for me.

I think what it really helps with is keeping me in the moment. Every sip brings my attention to where I am which helps me to not get too lost in my thoughts and fantasy worlds when I let my mind wonder.

IN A COMFORTABLE SETTING

Again, distractions when writing in my journal make it so every sentence is trivial and I don’t have the attention span to really let my mind go down whatever path it needs to.

I love to sit at the table where I have a hardy surface to bare down on. I like to be alone, but I can totally see the appeal of heading to a coffee shop and getting lost at your own little table. Really, just creating an environment where you feel completely at peace and uninhibited is key.

WHILE PLAYING GOOD MUSIC

When it’s too quiet, I get distracted. Something about having complete silence just gives me the creeps. I have a few playlists, some that I share in my monthly letters, that I like to cycle through here and there. For the most part, every playlist I make is great for playing in the background to create a mood. Some are a little more moody while others are more uplifting.

Really, anything that can fill the background and inspire a flow on consciousness will do.

WHY I JOURNAL

Once I get into the zone with all the things that help me get started, here are all the reasons I journal and what I write about.

TO CHECK IN

This may be the most important thing I do when I journal. I don’t consistently check in. Sometimes I have to go in and say with intention, “it’s time to check in with myself today.” But it’s a good thing to do whenever you can.

Basically, I start with one aspect of my life and move down the list. I’ll write about the good things, things that have improved, things I need to work on, things I wish could happen and then how to make them happen.

For me, my key check ins are always Husband, Kids, Hobbies - blogging and something random that I’ve picked up for a bit, Home - general health, decor, and cleanliness, and my general mental state.

Basically, whatever my most important things are, I check in to see how they’ve been running. It’s helped me to realize I need to make a better effort to have quality time with my husband. I need more playtime with Oliver. It helped me to bring my blog to a more personal place and to help me step back and be patient with my slue of random hobbies I get into. And now, I’ve finally been able to step back and realize I can work on my home little by little and that we don’t need to have a perfectly curated design or the perfect, seasonal meals all the time. All of this together has made my mental state much calmer and at ease.

So by far, checking in is one of the most important reasons why I use my journal. They’re all important really, but this one forces me to take a detailed look at everything that’s important to me to make sure I’m giving every aspect of my life the attention and quality that it deserves.

TO MAKE LISTS

This is an amazing tool for a racing brain. When you have a lot of things on your to-do list or deadlines you need to meet. Even if it’s just a lot of books you want to read or groceries or whatever. Whatever category or things that you’re trying to manage, make a list. I have so many random lists sprawled throughout my journal. I don’t even necessarily go back to them all the time. Simply getting them out and sorted can help me to prioritize and organize everything in a visual, tangible way that puts my mind at ease.

It gives me a next step, a first move, something to turn into an action so I’m not sitting on a bunch of thoughts that lead to nothing getting done.

I’ll use this to write out goals that we have for our future, goals I have for my personal hobbies. It helps me to sort through items I need for my wardrobe or home so instead of looks at each as a giant project that I have to do all at once, I can look at exactly what I need and think about what I want to fill that need with and then take my time finding exactly what I need.

Lists are probably the best way to turn your dreams and desires and goals into tasks that will help you reach each of those things in a manageable way.

TO SORT MY THOUGHTS

There’s always those completely abstract moments where you’re thinking about so many things that it almost feels like you’re thinking about nothing. That is when I use my journal to help me start with something and get my thoughts moving.

During these times I imagine there’s a giant tumble weed in my brain. I know there are a million little peaces of straw making up the giant tumble weed, but it’s spinning so fast that I can’t grab onto one of them. So yes, that’s when the journal comes out.

These are the days where I usually start my entry by saying, “I have no idea what I’m thinking about but I know there’s something.” That is when I practice the exercise of writing anything until you finally reach something. Literally writing whatever rambles come to mind until the tumble weed starts to shrink and eventually you have an organized pile of straw that you can actually see and sort through. Even if there are no significant thoughts that come from it, at the very least you’ve cleared your mind and you don’t have to feel stress over nothing.

TO DEAL WITH ISSUES

I am the type of person who feels and reacts within an instant. While my husband is the type to not even realized he felt something until the feeling is almost gone, I definitely feel all of my feelings immediately and intensely.

This has gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years. Reactions are never the best way to handle things and while I’m lucky to have fairly good instincts, there are some situations that could have been handled better had I taken the time to sort through the jumble of feelings before acting on them.

So now, if I’m feeling something strongly, I write about it. I write until I have a very clear answer on what happened, how I feel about it, and whether or not the situation was a big deal or if I just felt like it was a big deal in the moment. I have literally written 7 pages, front and back, on one issue just to try to understand and find a solution.

I’m a firm believer in talking through things and being honest always. Confrontation can be one of the most productive parts of a relationship, but only if it’s handled with empathy and reason, which hardly comes when you’re in the middle of feeling all your feelings.

Beyond that, behind every strong feeling, there is something deep within that triggers it. Feelings of being wronged rarely stem from our friends or spouses. Generally, the little wrongdoings that happen in adulthood come from something deeper in our subconscious: a pain we’ve acquired from the messiness of growing up.

We all suffer from childhood trauma. It’s how our very personalities are formed. We’re all born unable to receive some type of love from our parents, whether they actually give it to us or not, and that inability follows us for the rest of our lives. We all have the chance to learn this about ourselves and work on it, but we’re still going to have these weaknesses triggered by something every once in a while.

So this is why journaling helps me. It helps me to work through the strong feelings I have. It’s helped me to realize that when my husband does something on his own, he’s not doing anything wrong. It’s simply that I have a fear of abandonment and I need to learn to trust that when he leaves, he’ll still come back. But then, I can dig even farther and look at where that fear of abandonment comes from and learn to let go of the anger I built up towards my parents as a kid. To realize that they did their very best and that while as a child it’s sometimes sad when your parents have to go to work, as an adult I can help my inner child understand that there is no reason to hold onto those negative feelings because they weren’t actually abandoning me. The process of journaling before reacting makes it so these small triggers won’t effect me as deeply in the future and helps me to have a better relationship with the important people in my life.

So these are all the reasons I journal.

It’s basically like a therapy session that costs me $10 every 6 months to a year. A place for my mind to wonder, but not get stuck. It’s how I keep my mind free and at ease while still working through whatever it is I have to work through, big or small.