Changing Unhealthy Habits with Mindfulness


November 19, 2020

A salad, weights, and water

Whether it be stress eating, tobacco use, or spending a little too much time glued to your screens, we’ve all got unhealthy habits that we’d like to kick. These habits can be especially challenging to curb during a year filled with stress and uncertainty.

With the Great American Smokeout today, it’s a good reminder, even if tobacco use is not one of your coping strategies, that you can still identify and change the habits that aren’t helpful to your overall well-being. And, adding mindfulness practices into the process can help you become more aware, and focus on the habit changes you want to make.

Behavior Change Takes Time

Although it may seem like it should be easy to simply turn your phone off or not buy another pack of cigarettes, the science behind habits shows that it is a little more complicated. Being hard on yourself for your unhealthy habits can give the behavior more power, but understanding how positive behavior change works can help you navigate the process within yourself without judgment.

The three most important elements to positive behavior change are:

  • Having the readiness to change
  • Understanding any barriers that may prevent you from changing
  • Identifying any triggers that may cause you to return to the unhealthy habit

Mindfulness practice helps you become more aware of the habitual patterns that may no longer be serving you.  Being familiar with the stages of behavior change can help you meet yourself where you’re at, one stage at a time, as you prepare to replace your habits with healthier behavior.

The First Three Stages of Behavior Change

Although there are six total stages of behavior change, the first three are key to bringing awareness to your unhealthy habits and setting intentions for change:

  • Precontemplation. In this very early stage, you may not yet feel as though the habit is a problem or may be in denial of the consequences.
  • Contemplation. This stage brings more awareness of the potential benefits to changing the behavior, but conflicted emotions can still be present. As a result, this stage can last from months to years.
  • Preparation. In this stage begins the process of making smaller goals with the overall purpose of reaching one larger goal, such as switching to low-fat foods to lose weight or smoking less per day to curb tobacco use.

But like all big, important life changes, it can also be beneficial to have help and a sense of community. And this is where live and on-demand mindfulness resources can be key.

Becoming Unstuck with Guided Mindfulness Programs

Feeling ready to change an unhealthy habit is already a small success, but the process can seem overwhelming. With guided mindfulness programs, you can have the guidance of expert-led mindfulness teachers along the way and participate with others who are also navigating the same emotions and triggers.

eM Life offers multiple on-demand and live programs that address common unhealthy habits:

Be Gentle With Yourself Along the Way

Building and sustaining new habits takes time and hard work, but understanding how the mind prepares for change and finding guidance through purpose-driven mindfulness programs can help make the process less daunting. No matter how long it takes, becoming the best version of yourself is well worth the journey it takes to get there.

Written by Becky Greiner