According to Sarah Mahoney, WebMD.com, self-restraint is a rational desire and lives in the front of the brain. Pleasure resides in the brain's most primitive part, which has spent millions of years learning to reward us with dopamine when we give in to these kinds of urges. This makes it more difficult to resist when we want to change a behavior.
If the first step to changing a habit is being aware it needs to be changed (and believing it is possible), the second step is knowing how our brains work. Knowing what makes us tick can help us resist the urges that usually come when breaking old habits.
1. Practice Self-Control: According to Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., chief medical officer at Hazelden, willpower is like a muscle; the more we use it, the stronger it gets. He suggests that when you get the urge to cheat, you distract yourself with something else. Remind yourself why you are doing it and what the end result looks like.
2. Make One Change at a Time: Making too many changes at once can become overwhelming and self-defeating. Focus on accomplishing one goal at a time. Not only will your chances of success rise, your success will motivate you to tackle bigger challenges in the future.
3. Break your goal up: Instead of saying, "I'm going to lose 50 pounds in 6 months," tell yourself that you will lose 5 pounds a week. Or instead of saying you will go to the gym everyday, promise yourself you'll go 3 times a week.
4. Have a Glass of Orange Juice: A group of Florida State Universities have found that drinking a glass of orange juice can replenish your self-control. The brain relies on glucose for energy, so a glass of OJ might be just what you need to stay on track.
5. Lift Your Spirits: We all get discouraged from time to time, and one way to keep motivated is to watch a funny movie or do something fun. Another suggestion is to write down all your success to remind yourself of what it took to accomplish them.
6. Visual Reminders: Trying to lose weight? Tape a "before" photo of yourself on the refrigerator, or keep a photo in your wallet of that new car you're saving for.
7. De-Stress: It's difficult to resist something when we are stressed. If you feel that urge creeping up on you and you are finding that it's wearing you down, get away from whatever it is that is stressing you. Take a little break or eat a healthy snack. It's harder to resist something when we are tired, hungry, angry, sad, or stressed.
And don't get discouraged if you have setbacks. Tomorrow is another day to start again.