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9 Ways to Successfully Create Good Habits and 5 Reasons Why You Fail At Breaking the Bad Ones
9 Ways to Successfully Create New, Good Habits and the 5 Reasons Why You Fail to Break the Bad Ones
“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what is left after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” – Benjamin Franklin
We all have habits. Some are good, healthy habits, while others are bad and maybe even dangerous. Throughout our lives we often set goals to try to create new, good habits or break the bad ones we already possess. Many people try again and again to change their habits for the better only to meet with failure in the end. Learning a new habit can be just as difficult as breaking a bad one you’ve struggled with for years. There are reasons for this and steps you can take to help ensure your success.
Establishing good, healthy habits can enrich your life in countless ways. When an action becomes a habit, it becomes automatic and you don’t really have to think about it much. Some of the healthy habits that people try to develop include; eating healthier, exercising regularly, meditating, doing chores around the house or just taking time each day for yourself. These are just a few examples, but basically anything you want to do regularly that will enrich your life and make you happy can become a habit.
Here are nine simple tips that are easy to follow and can help you turn healthy activities into lifelong habits.
1. Take baby steps. – You can’t wait to just dive in and succeed while developing a good habit. Start with small manageable steps. If you’d like to make healthy eating a habit, start by swapping out specific foods or meals for healthier options. If you make sudden, drastic changes to your lifestyle, chances are good that you won’t succeed.
2. Make yourself accountable. – Tell a friend or family member whose opinions are important to you. By telling a trusted friend or family member about your intention to develop a new habit you promote accountability. You are more likely to stick to your habit if you know you will have to answer to someone other than yourself.
3. Control yourself. – You should be proud of the fact that you are trying to make positive changes in your life. Reward yourself regularly when you follow your new habit. Treat yourself to a pedicure or a hot bubble bath. Spend Saturday morning sleeping in, or play some golf on the course. Whatever you love… do it.
4. One habit at a time. – Work on developing one habit at a time. If you’re anything like me, there are tons of new, healthy habits you want to incorporate into your life. Focus on one at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Developing a habit, like exercising regularly, may seem like a small change, but it’s not. When you start developing a new habit of any kind, you change the way you live your life.
5. Make sure you really want it. – The more you are willing to make even small changes, the more likely you will stick with them. Never start developing a habit you don’t want just because you think, or have been told, that it is the right thing to do. If you try to force yourself to do something you hate, you will avoid it at all costs. If you hate going to the gym, don’t do it. There are many good habits you can develop that will enrich your life and that you will enjoy.
6. Plan it.- Sit down and make a list of the good habits you would like to develop. Prioritize the list and determine which habits you would like to develop first. Once you’ve figured this out, write a plan. By writing this down, you can refer to it whenever you need a little extra motivation and it will help you stay on track.
7. Be very specific. – Don’t just say: “I want to make a habit of drinking more water”. Instead, say, “I want to start drinking eight glasses of water a day.” By being specific you know exactly what you need to do to develop your new habit and won’t become overwhelmed. If you’re too vague, you could easily rationalize that you drank more water today than yesterday, even if it wasn’t your desired eight glasses.
8. Use tools. – Use every resource you have at your disposal. You can make lists, journals, charts, spreadsheets…anything that will help you keep track of your goals. I often use sticky notes around the house. I will put reminders on walls, mirrors, the fridge and anywhere else I think they can be helpful. They may not look pretty but they help me stay motivated.
9. Don’t blame yourself for letting us down. – We all slip up from time to time. Just yesterday I was snacking on some chips while watching TV. Before I knew it, the entire bag was empty! It happens to everyone. Realize this, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself of why you wanted to develop the habit in the first place, and then start over
“A man who cannot bear to share his habits is a man who needs to leave them.” – Stephen King, The Dark Tower
Why is it so hard to break bad habits? There are things we do every day, or even hourly, that we know are not good for us. We bite our nails, smoke cigarettes, make unhealthy food choices, procrastinate, lead sedentary lives, etc. Each of us has a bad habit that we would like to break, but we often have difficulty doing so. This is because, once a habit is developed, we rarely even realize we are doing it. It becomes part of who we are. If we want to improve our lives, breaking bad habits is a wonderful place to start.
Here are 5 common reasons why we often fail to break bad habits.
1. We expect results too quickly. – We didn’t develop our bad habit in one day, and we certainly can’t expect to break it in one day either. Breaking a habit takes time. We must be patient and persistent in our goals.
2. We have a low level of self-awareness. – I’ve been a nail biter for most of my life. I do it without even thinking and usually don’t even realize I’m chewing them until I feel pain or see blood. This is because I am not always self-aware. We often go through life on autopilot, but when we’re trying to break a habit, we need to slow down and pay attention to everything we’re doing. We have to try to really live in the moment. If we develop a stronger sense of self-awareness, we can eliminate our bad habits as soon as we start doing them.
3. We use our habits as an emotional crutch. – Many of our habits, such as smoking or turning to food when we need comfort, serve as a coping mechanism for emotional stress or pain. We must look for other, healthier substitutes for these habits. When I was trying to quit smoking, I would often exercise when I would feel the urge. The exercise took my mind off my immediate cravings and helped me relieve my stress in a healthy way.
4. We don’t tell anyone we’re trying to break our habit. – Breaking a bad habit is extremely difficult. It’s even harder when we don’t have the support of our friends and family. We often fail to tell them out of fear. We think that by not telling them, we can avoid disappointing them if we fail. To successfully break a bad habit we must tell those we love and trust. They will give us the support we need and they will also make us accountable for our actions.
5. We are too hard on ourselves when we slip back into old patterns. – Just as developing new habits is difficult, breaking old ones is extremely difficult. We will all fall from time to time. We have to stay positive and remember why we want to break our habits. Do you want to be a better role model for your children? Want to avoid a second heart attack? Do you want your nails to be beautiful for your wedding day? Whatever your motivation, remember, there is a very good reason why you decided to break your bad habit in the first place. When we slip and fall back into our bad patterns, we need to take a moment to remember why it’s important to break the habit. Then, we have to start again.
I hope these tips help you feel guided in having motivation to break habits you’re not happy about or develop new ones you’re proud of.
“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” -Brian Tracy
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