Most dads practice bad habits they would like to break. But before that can happen, you must first understand what triggers these habits.
If you don’t already know, a trigger is a stimulus that prompts a particular behavior or response. Triggers can be external, such as a specific location or time of day, or internal, such as a particular emotion or thought. Could be a person too! Do you remember that ‘drinking’ buddy you had years back? Well…he could have been a trigger… When you saw him the first thing you thought about was… Rum and Coke!
A bad habit is a harmful behavior that you do mindlessly, such as procrastination, overeating, or smoking. However, you can turn your triggers into positive actions when you recognize them. With time and effort, you can make the trigger cause you to perform a good habit instead of a harmful one, using the very human nature that led to the bad habit in the first place.
Examples of Potential Triggers
Let’s look at a few examples of potential triggers:
A certain time of day – Maybe your habit is snacking on junk food late at night. The trigger, in this case, might be boredom or stress after a long day. Or having that cold beer after a crappy day at work.
A specific location – Maybe you have a habit of procrastinating at home. The trigger, in this case, might be complicated but it can be anything from clutter to feeling overwhelmed and overworked. How about at the beach? I live on a peninsula surrounded by beautiful beaches so when I go to the East coast(for example) I usually feel like having a ‘cold one.’
A particular emotion – Maybe you have a habit of smoking when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. The trigger, in this case, is the emotion of anxiety or stress. The same goes for feeling depressed, you’ll be hovering around the fridge looking for something sweet and rich.
Bad Habits That Triggers May Lead To
Some bad habits that the triggers may lead to include:
Procrastination – Putting off responsibilities until the last minute. Or that ‘IDEA’ you’ve had for years.
Overeating – Consuming more food than is necessary or healthy. We’re not talking about eating too much of your mom’s famous pig’s feet over the holidays, we’re talking about overeating regularly.
Smoking – Using tobacco products, which can have negative effects on your health. This includes weed too, don’t kid yourself.
Biting your nails – A nervous habit that can damage your nails and skin. I had this nasty habit for years and dropped it cold turkey when I moved to Korea. Just like that~~
Identifying Your Triggers
It’s not always easy to identify your triggers, but here are some useful techniques:
–Keep a journal. Track your moods, thoughts, and physical symptoms when you experience a trigger.
–Take note of any patterns in your behavior when you are triggered.
–Speak to a therapist or counselor about your triggers.
–Periodically assess how you respond to certain situations or environments.
–Use mindfulness to identify and process your emotional reactions when you experience triggers.
–Consider your past experiences for clues about what may trigger certain emotions.
–Practice relaxation and stress management techniques to help you gain control over your reactions.
Try to participate in more activities that help you to become more self-aware. Focus on mindfulness, like meditation, yoga, and walking in nature as you contemplate your life and how far you’ve come toward your goals. As dads, many of us(not me) don’t exercise enough. Whatever age you’re at right now, it’s never too late to start at the gym or simply take a walk.
Turning the Trigger into Something Positive
Once you have identified the trigger, the next step is to turn it to stimulate a positive habit. If you can’t remove the trigger from your environment, replacing the bad habit with a healthy one is optimal.
For instance, if the trigger for your bad habit is a certain time of day, try setting a reminder to do something else at that time. For example, if you know that every day around 3 PM, you feel like snacking on sweet Korean snacks, prepare a healthy snack to enjoy instead.
If the trigger is a specific location, try to avoid that location as much as possible, or somehow change your response. However, if you feel anxious every day at home, you’ll need to figure out why because you can’t change your location.
Maybe you need to declutter your environment or fix something else at home. Perhaps you just need to go for a walk or talk to your wife about it. There’s a solution to almost anything that’s bothering you
If the trigger is an emotion, try practicing stress-management techniques or find a healthy way to cope with your feelings. It’s okay to acknowledge feelings without reacting to them. Try writing in your journal or meditating.
Most of all, instead of engaging in a bad habit, replace it with a healthy one. It just makes sense that if you’re trying to break the habit of overeating, for example, you should focus on keeping healthy snacks around, such as fruit or nuts, and find alternative activities to do instead of eating.
It goes the same for beer. I use beer a lot in my posts because I enjoy drinking a few times a month, and I know many of my dad readers enjoy a cold brew too. I’m not here to pretend that I’m perfect with no bad habits. I’m trying to encourage you to get better in all shapes and forms for you and your family.
I often do a ‘dry January, or October, or any other month out of the year. It’s a time that I have zero alcohol for a month. It’s not because I’m an alcoholic, it’s because I know how to control my triggers and my -so-called- bad habit. I encourage you to try it too. It’s really easy when you put YOUR mind to it.
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