How to break bad habits

Susannah Hickling 29 January 2020

There's no time like the start of a new year to get working on a better, healthier you. Susannah Hickling advises on where to begin

1. Making excuses not to exercise

Too tired to drag yourself to the gym? Not enough time to squeeze in a swim? Fitness doesn’t always have to involve lengthy training sessions. Short bursts of exercise can be beneficial too. For example, go for a shorter walk, but introduce some jogging in the middle, or walk faster between two landmarks—trees, for example. And remember that vacuum cleaning, gardening and climbing stairs can also improve fitness.


2. Not eating enough veg

A 2017 survey found that only 29 per cent of adults ate the recommended five fruit and veg a day. Sneak veggies into your diet to up your quota. Try cauliflower cheese or add broccoli to your mac and cheese. Swap potatoes, which don’t count towards your five a day, for sweet potatoes, which do.


3. Overeating before bed

Late night snacking has been implicated in obesity, diabetes and possibly even heart disease. It’s better to eat earlier in the day when you’re more likely to burn calories, and get to bed sooner so you have less opportunity to give in to the late-night munchies. Ideally, eat nothing between dinner and bedtime.


4. Skimping on your ZZZs

Not getting enough sleep at night can be harmful for health, potentially leading to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. To make sure you're well rested every night, make a new habit—set an alarm for half an hour before you plan to go to bed. This will give you more time to get ready and more sleep time.


5. Drinking too many units

Do you regularly flout the recommended weekly 14-unit limit? Consider how you can cut back. Rather than the two alcohol-free days a week that experts advise, have three. Or resolve to drink only at weekends—but don’t binge drink.


6. Being on a perpetual diet

Have you tried every diet under the sun but seem unable to lose weight, or keep it off? Relearn how to eat instead. Stop eating just before you feel satisfied. Drink plenty of water to help you feel fuller and don’t forget that alcohol, juices and many soft drinks are laden with calories. Always eat breakfast.


7. Being addicted to your phone

Smartphones can be a terrible time waster. What’s more, too much social media can make you feel dissatisfied with life or wracked with fear of missing out—"FOMO". Restrict your screen time with an app, such as Apple’s built-in Screen Time or Flipd for Android. Or simply turn off distracting notifications or delete apps from your phone and only use them on your computer.


8. Being negative

It’s one of the biggest barriers to maintaining good habits—and to your sense of wellbeing generally. Try to combat the self-criticism by finding three positive thoughts for every negative notion that pops into your head.


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