Since I’ve started leading a more sustainable lifestyle, I noticed the changes I want to make (and have done) have a lot to do with habits; old habits and new habits.
Us humans are creatures of habits, we learn what we see around us and, therefore, adopt those practices. They’re learned behaviours we repeat over and over again sometimes without thinking about them.
The dictionary definition of a habit is ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up’
Although there are good habits and bad habits , I’ve found a way to change this has a lot to do with how you adapt to changes. It’s not always easy, remember the saying ‘old habits die hard’?
Tip – don’t do it all in one go, it’s going to be overwhelming!
Ways to Ditch Old Habits and Learn New Ones
Pick one old habit at a time
The biggest mistake a made was to make so many changes at the same time and I eventually found it so overwhelming that I burned myself out. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Focus on ONE thing you want to change.
It could be buying loose fruit and vegetables instead of ones wrapped in plastic, opting for second-hand clothing, ditching tea bags in favour of loose tea leaves, make your own cleaning product, take part in environmental awareness days, or opting for eco-friendly menstrual products.
Although we have good intentions, it’s easy to slip.
Once you have picked one, focus on that. Eventually, you will form a new habit which will allow you to move to the next one.
Here’s a great quote
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” ― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right straight away, we are all learning.
Something I always say – start small, do what you can, build from there.
Think about the process
I’ve been reading Atomic Habits book by James Clear and there’s a section where he talks about habit stacking. This is where you incorporate a new habit into actions you already take.
One of the chapters focuses on processes.
We tend to work on a series of processes; make a shopping list, get in the car, go to the supermarket, get a trolley, fill your trolley, queue and pay, load up the car, return trolley, drive home. Yet, we sometimes forget our shopping bags.
If you want to incorporate shopping bags, you need to add that to the process.
Here’s an example –
When you write your shopping list, add the word ‘shopping bags in the car’ first, that will make you stop and put shopping bags in your car. It may help putting them on the passenger’s seat so you remember to pick them up once you’re parked.
All you need is a clear prompt to add to your process. Once you get into the habit of remembering your bags when you’re writing your shopping list, move to the next habit you want to change.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”Tweet
― C.G. Jung
Change your environment to let go of old habits
One of the biggest things I took away from Atomic Habits book is about changing your environment.
One of the examples given was about eating fruit. If you buy fruit and leave them in the fridge, you’ll forget it’s there and will have to throw them out. Instead, leave them in a bowl on the kitchen counter where you will always see them. When something is out of sight, it’s usually out of mind.
How can you ditch an old habit for sustainable living?
Something I’ve recently started is composting. I had a habit of forgetting to put food scraps to one side so I starting putting the scraps in a DIY compost bag I left it on the kitchen island, where I always prepare the food. As it was right in front of me (rather than to one side), I started I started adding any scraps to it.
One little change makes a difference.
Old habits are hard to let go. I’ve found identifying them and working on one habit at at time, reduces the chance of overwhelm and anxiety.
If you’re looking for a DIY project, here’s how you can make a draught excluder from things you already have in your home.
Also, be a little kinder to yourself.