“Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with” and “Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with”, according to Brian Tracey, a well-known motivational teacher. You may recognize that in order to successfully manage your diabetes symptoms, you will have to change some old habits and develop some new ones.
It has been said often that it takes at least 21 days to change a habit. Of course, in some difficult cases, it can take as long as a year. Here’s an example of the general process of changing a habit. Suppose you drink coffee every day and want to change over to herbal tea because it is healthier if you are diabetic. At first, it may be challenging to drink herb tea instead of coffee. You will have to use your self-discipline for the first few weeks of the new regime but gradually it will get easier. Once you have the habit in place, it will serve you very well. Habits are remarkable because they don’t require thinking. You just “do it” for years until you change the habit again.
The 5 steps that we have come up with for changing a habit or to develop a new one are as follows: Awareness; Wanting to change, Commitment, Consistent action, and Perseverance.
Awareness: You must become aware of the problem. What is this habit exactly? How is this bad habit or group of bad habits affecting you? How is this habit affecting others? For example, smoking often has negative effects on others as well as on you.
Wanting to Change: As a diabetic, you must decide to change this habit through a conscious effort. You must convince yourself that changing will be worth the effort involved.
Commitment: You must be determined to do whatever it takes to make the change to help control your diabetic condition. You make a decision that “no matter what” you will change your habit. You will put in the work to stop smoking, overeating, eating processed foods, drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks, drinking alcohol, procrastinating, etc.
Consistent Action: It is important to take consistent daily actions to eliminate bad habits that make your diabetic condition worse and to take the action to develop new habits. We suggest breaking the process into one step at a time rather than trying to do it all at once. Sometimes you can stop something “cold turkey” like smoking and sometimes it works better to make a gradual change.
It is suggested that you give yourself positive rewards often for taking small actions toward solidifying your new habit formation. Continual day-by-day actions are what are critical. This is NOT about an occasional action or step. It is about consistent action.
Perseverance: There will be times when you question whether it is all worth it. You’ll say to yourself that this habit is too difficult to change; that you are too “weak” to change. Your old self, often so comfortable living with the negative habits, is trying to hold on here. You need to find ways to break your old patterns. It may require prayer, solitude, and meditation.
Try to visualize regularly the rewards for following through and the costs of not following through. Get support from others, especially other people who are diabetic and read about people who have changed their habits. Affirm that, no matter what, you will not backslide into your old habit patterns.
So now, you are armed with a 5-step process for changing any habit that has contributed to your being diabetic. We do want to mention that if you have an addiction to something such as alcohol, these steps alone may not be enough. You may require additional professional help, but for most cases the 5-step process will do the trick!
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