Healthy Town blog: The smart way to kick bad habits

Take stock, set goals, re-form habits and refocus: ditching harmful routines sounds easy

Goal setting to kick habits such as overindulging in wine should be SMART: S = Specific, M= Measurable; A = Attainable; R = Relevant and T = Time-bound

Goal setting to kick habits such as overindulging in wine should be SMART: S = Specific, M= Measurable; A = Attainable; R = Relevant and T = Time-bound

 

It was a fitting finale to eight weeks of interesting public talks. Nenagh GP Dr Pat Harrold’s talk on breaking bad habits went down well, to cap off Healthy Town Athlone 2015.

When the schedule was announced two months ago, I wondered would this topic be a better fit at the beginning of the initiative, to kickstart a change in people’s habits, but in hindsight it worked well to round off the series. It left some lasting impressions for people to make permanent changes through breaking the lingering bad habits.

Over the eight weeks, we heard some good running tips from Mary Jennings, an informative session on men’s health with Finian Murray, a talk on positive ageing with Ciarán McKinney, Trish Murphy spoke about mental health and Sarah O’Doherty talked about family health.

Dr Angie Brown and Janis Morrissey delivered an interesting session on heart health, while chef Catherine Fulvio attracted the biggest crowds of any week with her cookery demo in week 2.

And Dr Harrold tied it all in perfectly with a lively session on Wednesday night, at the Sheraton Athlone Hotel, tying in many of the points that had come up during the course of the eight-week programme.

Let’s face it, we all have bad habits. From smoking, eating too much chocolate, overindulging in wine, to biting the nails, choosing the couch instead of the treadmill, texting while driving, to overusing the internet, everyone has a guilty pleasure.

Dr Harrold made knocking habits all sound so easy: take stock, make a plan, get support, set goals, re-form habits and refocus. Simple!

“The habit is bad. You are not!” he said.

Certainly his advice to set goals is well worth heeding. If you say you are going to run today, set a goal – how far will you run and what is your goal after you have completed the run? Another run tomorrow? Set the goal and stick to it.

It’s important to ensure the goals are realistic and specific; otherwise you may well lose interest. Goal setting should be SMART, he said. S = Specific, M= Measurable; A = Attainable; R = Relevant and T = Time-bound (give yourself a time limit).

What he described as the Wheel of Change can be scary, but only if you let it be, so why not hop on the wheel and make those changes. Embrace it. It’s all about how you perceive it.

“It is exciting and you will fall off. If you do, you just pick up and keep going the next day. Eventually you toddle off and you walk away from it!”

It takes up to a month to break the habit and “if you last a month you are kind of out through the gap,” he said.

Nothing is set in stone and the great thing about a plan is you can change it whenever you want, Dr Harrold added, to conclude a really informative eight weeks of talks, classes and health checks for Healthy Town 2015.

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