Substitute a Bad Habit For a Good Habit

Here at Lifehacker we talk a lot about how to form good habits and how to break bad habits. But this tip is about how to switch out the latter for the former and streamline the whole process.

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This story was discovered by Khe Hy of Rad Reads and comes via his newsletter; Redditor u/DFjorde posted on r/LifeProTips about a very relatable struggle—they’d been impulsively eating junk food. Their side hustle selling chips and candy had fallen off, but the extra stock was spilling out of the closet. Anyone with impulse control issues can imagine what a temptation that presents.

They started to use the desire to eat a candy bar as motivation—every time the thought popped into their head, they did 10 push ups, then 15 and so on:

Use pushups to break unwanted habits. Every time you get the urge to do that unhealthy thing drop and give yourself 10. If you can’t do 10, do 5 or 3 or whatever you can do. You’re not only breaking your old habit but also starting a new, healthy one. It only takes a few seconds to get started!

Just think about how many times that thing pops into your head over then course of a day. 5, 10, 15 times? Now think how good it would feel knowing you did 50, 100, 150 pushups today! I know, it sounds hard but it’s way easier than you think! If you can’t do 10 (or can do more than 10) then just do what you can and you’ll be surprised by how quickly you can start doing more. This is because at the same time as breaking this old habit you’re also employing one of the best methods to increase your performance, known as grease the groove.

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They’re correct that doing a push-up isn’t something everyone can do, both physically and logistically. Most offices don’t take too kindly to someone jumping up and getting down on the ground.

There are other brief, easy physical activities you can engage in that work along a similar principle—distract yourself by doing squats, walking up and down a building staircase, having a cup of water (since so many people have trouble hydrating), or doing a few jumping jacks. You’ll have to judge for yourself how much discretion is needed in the workplace or at home; there could be a downstairs neighbor who doesn’t want to hear you slamming into the floor.

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Even if this method doesn’t make you super jacked, connecting a physical act to a bad impulse will make you aware of how often you’re indulging in a habit you hate. You could also start thinking about what activates your desire to go eat an extra candy bar, look at Instagram for the millionth time, or obsessing over something you can’t control. Maybe in time you won’t need to do push ups every ten minutes to stop your bad habit—you just won’t do it anymore.

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