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Kick the bad habits

Kick the bad habits. 

Are you a drinker or smoker and having trouble quitting? We look at how to break bad habits, and some other habits that we could drop as we age.

As seniors, we have a fine line to tread between “bugger it, I’ve earned it” and living to a ripe old age. You don’t want to be too pious, but at the same time we’ve all got some bad habits we could do without. We look at ways of getting back on track.

What is a bad habit?

There are the obvious ones: drinking too much, smoking, and eating poorly. These are all major killers of not just the elderly. But as seniors, there are also some bad habits you may not have considered.

Being too sedentary. As we age, we need to keep moving, even as everything starts to creak and complain as we get out of a chair.

Slacking off on hygiene. Cleaning our teeth, jumping in the shower – we all have days where this feels like a huge effort, but it’s an effort we need to keep up for a healthy and happy retirement.

Eating late. Late-night snacking isn’t usually an apple; it’s usually something bad for us that can lead to indigestion and poor sleep. Which leads us to…

Not getting enough sleep. If you don’t hit the hay on time, you will be tired, lacking in energy and more likely to fall into all of the aforementioned bad habits.

Identify what triggers the behaviour. Is it the end of the day, the inflammation of an old wound, or talking to your relatives that drives you to a smoke or drink? Then work on changing that kind of behaviour

How to kick a bad habit

A bad habit often takes hold via repetition. Just like learning our times tables, if we do something long enough, like smoking, a large part of why we do it is because the pattern is hard to break. Sometimes we can do it without even thinking about it.

Much of our life is routine, and if your routine is to end the day with a cigarette or too many glasses of wine, it’s time to change your ways.

First, define the behaviour you want to stop. It’s no use just saying “I want to be healthier” – that is too broad and easily slips away. Instead, target an unhealthy habit and be aware of it.

Next, identify what triggers the behaviour. Is it the end of the day, the inflammation of an old wound, or talking to your relatives that drives you to a smoke or drink? Realise what it is that makes you start, and it will be easier to stop.

Then, make some new habits by substituting the bad behaviour for something else. In this we are basically retraining our brain to reach for an apple instead of a
glass of red wine.

Get some help

With the big stuff, like drinking and smoking, it can be beneficial to get some help. We’re not talking AA here, but someone you can talk to when it seems too hard to stick with your new routine.

For the positive stuff, get a walking buddy and you’re more likely to take a stroll than take a drag on a cigarette. You can also use your own prompts to help push positive behaviour, like putting fruit in the front of the fridge so it’s the first thing you see when you go for that snack.

It can be hard to “teach an old dog new tricks,” but if we want to get even older, there are some habits that we just need to kick.