Out with the Old, In with the New: Spring Cleaning Old Habits

Spring is here, and the newly sprouted greenery and blossoming flowers have us all in the mood for a fresh start. What kind of old habits do you want to break? Whether it’s smoking, indulging in sweets, or sitting in front of the television, we all have routines we know aren’t the best for us. The CONNECT-HF Study team encourages people with heart failure to continue working on creating healthy habits. Small changes to your lifestyle may be helpful in controlling heart failure symptoms. Here are three unexpected ways you can spring-clean some old habits and blossom into a new, heart-healthier you.

1. Stop trying to break your old habits.

Yes, this sounds like the opposite of spring cleaning, but hear this out. Most of our brains are not designed to respond well to what are called negative goals, such as: “I’m not going to eat sweets today.” Instead, try framing your goals positively: “After dinner, when I typically want to eat sweets, I will take a walk instead.” The truth is, when we talk about breaking habits, what we really want are new, more positive habits. Instead of thinking about what you can’t have, think of what you will do instead.

2. Talk to yourself.

In the moments before we engage in an old habit, a rapid conversation with ourselves is often going on in our minds. We know we shouldn’t eat that cake, but it’s as if a chorus of supporters live in our brains and come up with reasons why we should. “You deserve this! You’ve had a bad day, and this cake will make it better.” Before you make that choice, force yourself to say these excuses out loud. When you tune into them and listen carefully, they will likely sound a little silly and lose some of their power.

3. Prepare for new habits to feel strange at first.

When we break an old habit, the beginning of the process is the most difficult. Before we feel the positive changes of a new us, our minds try hard to convince us to return to our old ways. It can be mentally exhausting, and we may start to doubt that we have the willpower to sustain our new habit. The trick is to remember that this uncomfortable feeling is temporary, and it will get easier—a lot easier. In fact, your new lifestyle will actually make you a much happier person if you stick with it.

Are you motivated to spring clean your old ways? ‘Tis the season for reinvention, so leave one of your old habits in the dust today! For more helpful tips from the CONNECT-HF Study Team, visit our healthy living tips page.