Stop, Challenge, Choose
Eight Steps for Breaking Habits
Any time you become aware of an unhealthy thought, feeling, or action, use the Stop—Challenge—Choose Method. Let’s say you’re about to eat a whole tray of appetizers at a party because you’re nervous. First, stop and take a deep, slow breath to help bring your emotions under control. Next, challenge yourself by thinking about why you’re feeling or acting the way you are. Finally, choose the behavior that supports what you really want.
2. Make time your ally.
Time can be a powerful ally as you build optimal health. As you’ll see, your daily choices can, over time, lead you from non-sickness to disease. But conversely, time can serve as your ally as you make choices that lead to optimal health.
3. Avoid peer pressure and toxic environments.
Do your friends and family follow the same Habits of Disease that you do? Are you hanging out in an unhealthy environment? You’ll learn more about modeling later in this program, but for now, it’s a good idea to avoid, as much as possible, any activities, friends, and environments that are not conducive to healthy behaviors.
4. Keep a journal.
Every time you engage in an activity or make a choice that doesn’t support health, write it down. Make a note of what triggered the behavior and kept you from controlling the unhealthy choice.
5. Exchange a negative for a positive choice.
Once you’ve mastered Stop—Challenge—Choose, this technique can help lead you to healthy alternatives. For example, say you’re tired at work in the afternoon. You probably habitually grab a cup of coffee, but as you’ll learn about sleep, this choice can actually exacerbate your lack of energy by robbing you of sleep that night. Instead, recharge naturally by taking a brisk 10-minute walk or by resting for five minutes with your eyes closed while listening to relaxing music.
6. Avoid giving the bad habit your energy or focus.
The best way to avoid acting in a certain way is to direct your focus elsewhere. If you keep telling yourself you’re not going to overeat or watch a second movie instead of heading to bed, your mind will stay focused on what you don’t want to do. The key is to avoid thinking of the behavior in the first place—which will become much easier as we load your daily choices with healthy habits that support what you really want.
7. Create barriers to the Habits of Disease.
I am absolutely powerless over the aroma of warm chocolate chip cookies. I go into a feeding frenzy, and 1,000 calories later I’m wondering what hit me. So there are standing orders in my house that my children and my wife, Lori, never make cookies when I’m home. Later in this program, we will delve into improving your environment, like your kitchen, in greater depth.
8. Get support.
If you aren’t sure how to conquer a certain temptation, ask someone who has experienced the same challenge, like your Health Coach. If you don’t personally know someone who has made the journey to optimal health, visit my Facebook, and ask our wonderful community members for help.
For yesterday’s list, develop a strategy for overcoming your unhealthy triggers so that you can begin to conquer your habits. For example, if your habit of eating ice cream every night is triggered by watching your favorite nightly TV show, your strategy might be to not buy ice cream. Instead, cut up some celery and sprinkle a little sea salt on it.
Or if your habit is to eat candy at your desk when your boss yells at you, stop. Take a deep centering breath. Challenge: why are you feeling like this? Choose: if you made a mistake, try to do better. Eat an apple instead. If you have a mean boss, perhaps consider a different job.
With these strategies in hand, start implementing them, and come back to the eight steps that we covered today to help give you strength. You’re building Habits of a Healthy Mind and taking the stairs! You’re off to a great start.
Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, Co-Founder, Take Shape For Life