By Audrey Cade
Habits. We all have them!
Some habits are positive for our well-being, such as my intense drive to brush my teeth each morning, or a pleasant evening walk. Other habits, such as texting while driving or abusing alcohol, can actually be deadly, and most of us are aware of the consequences and how careful we should be when something is potentially addictive or dangerous.
Then, there’s those habits that aren’t necessarily the best thing in the world for us, but they somehow add an element of pleasure or convenience to our lives; so we indulge them. I’ll count my craving for caffeine in this category. I always tell myself that I’m not shooting up drugs or robbing a bank; so, my daily dose of the “good stuff” isn’t really hurting anyone!
The truth is that anything could be taken too far and become detrimental. Any habit we might develop can become a problem if it overtakes other areas of our life to the point of interfering with our relationships, sanity, or safety, or negatively impacts our health. Even my beloved caffeine!
“Everything in moderation” my stepdad used to say. There’s so much wisdom in those words!
I’ve heard the health warnings about caffeine, and I know it’s not the best thing I can do for my body. Although my substance of choice is legal and I can’t directly point to it harming my health, I know that in my preferred beverage, diet soda, I could do a lot better for my body, and time may still reveal harm that it’s inflicting on my body.
Obviously, I need to find a better alternative!
I decided to review what it is that I crave about my habit so that I can identify healthier options for myself (apply these questions to yourself and your own vices to see what you can learn about the motivation of your habit and how difficult it might be to break):
When do I want it?
Mostly in the morning. I don’t find that I desire it so much as a means to wake me up, so much as I am thirsty and I associate the taste and quench as a part of my morning.
Do I recognize changes in the way I feel if I don’t give in to my habit?
I’ll be honest, I miss it; but, then again, I am just fine on days I don’t have it and I always enjoy other drinks like water, juice, or decaffeinated tea.
Why this particular habit?
It’s satisfying and convenient. I would drink other things, but I would have to put in some effort to making other options more readily available in my environment.
What could I do instead?
Water would be the best option, followed by virtually any other drink that can either provide me a nutritional benefit or has less chemicals and additives. Considering that diet soda does absolutely nothing for me except temporarily quench my thirst, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a pleasing and positive replacement!
How hard do I think this habit will be to break?
With the right motivation, I know I can drop my caffeine and diet soda dependence in an instant! I previously eliminated these items from my diet as soon as I discovered I was pregnant with my children, so I just need to convince myself that protecting my health is just as worthy of a cause!
Now that I understand more about my habit…
what can I do to improve the situation?
In my case, I need to develop new routines for how I start my day and what associations I make to morning and refreshment. Thirst and convenience seem to be the predominant motivators that enforce my habit; so, I need to plan desirable options into my environment.
- I plan to take action by purchasing and maintaining a good supply of other beverage options at home, work, and my vehicle so that I won’t be as tempted by diet soda.
- I know that I enjoy water, decaffeinated tea, and other choices; so, I should more proactively order these choices when I am out and stock them where I spend my day.
- I will plan to carry a water bottle with me to encourage me to fill up and drink water, rather than diet soda.
- I will stave off cravings for flavor by keeping options to flavor my water readily available (lemon slices, mint, cucumber, and other fresh ingredients can add a lot of taste!), as well as choices that are healthier than the nutritional void of soda.
I have no plans at this moment to completely eliminate diet soda or caffeine from my life. For now, I will still allow myself a diet soda or caffeinated drink as a treat. I may eventually become so comfortable with my healthier options that I no longer see the need; but, I recognize in myself that whenever I completely cut something out of my life, I tend to want it more later and my abstinence may backfire!
My commitment to myself is to make efforts, big and small, to incorporate healthier habits to replace the unhealthy ones I engage in. I don’t expect change to occur overnight, and I won’t beat myself up if I temporarily fall back into some of my old ways.
We all do things we wish we didn’t, and those habits are unique to each of us. What you consider to be “too much” or a “problem” might not be the same for me. Some bad habits should take a higher priority to reduce or eliminate because they pose a greater risk to who we want to be. Others may contribute to the spice in our life or the quirks that make each of us who we are!
If you feel that you have a habit that you would be better off without, consider asking yourself about it, as I did with my diet soda habit, then, develop a phase out plan that you feel you can live with!
About the Author
Audrey Cade is the author of “Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision” (on Amazon) and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. She enjoys family outings, a variety of arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, and writing. She is a featured blogger for Divorced Moms, has work regularly appearing on Divorce Force, and articles appearing in Step Mom Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.