Changing Negative Habits to Positive Ones

Changing Negative Habits to Positive Ones
By Aris Akavan, ACE CPT, BS MIS

The easiest way to change a negative habit is to replace it with a positive one but that is easier said than done as. Our environment encourages negative habits such as overeating and not being physically active but if we can become aware of the cues that trigger the negative behaviors, we can better prevent them. Changing habits will be affected by self control and stimulus control.


Habits are a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that are acquired through frequent repetition. They are comfortable and since humans are creatures of habits, we tend to settle into daily routines. Habits can be positive, such as to exercise first thing in the morning or to eat an apple a day, or negative such as associating television  and food or drinking with having a good time.

Stimulus Control

Stimulus control involves altering the environment to encourage healthy behaviors.  Manipulating antecedents, stimuli that precede a behavior and often signal the likely consequence of a behavior, will maximize the likelihood of a desirable behavior. Leaving your gym bag in the passenger sit as a reminder to exercise, or positioning a fruit bowl in a high visibility area to increase the chances of nibbling on a healthy snack are some examples of stimulus control.

Self Control

Self control is restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires. It is the effort to make changes such as eating better and exercising regularly. Even though some people have more self control than others, no one has limitless self control. Therefore, if you can minimize the amount of self-control needed to maintain a lifestyle modification, the more successful you will be. For example, do not keep tempting food at home

Changing habits

To change a habit, first set a realistic goal. To change the association of television and food, first set a goal of only eating fruits or vegetable when watching a movie, then change the goal to eating only a certain amount  (such as 5 strawberries or 3 baby peppers), and eventually to drinking water only. The goal should be based on behavior. Instead of focusing on losing 10 pounds, focus on what behaviors will get you there.  You have more control over exercising and eating healthy 6 days a week than losing a set amount of weight. If you can make a lifestyle modification a habit, the more successful you will be as habits are comfortable and require little self control.

About the Author

Aris Akavan, ACE certified Personal Trainer & Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach, is owner of Body Fitness by Aris. Her mission is to assist others in leading a healthier lifestyle by balancing exercise and proper eating habits to achieve the ultimate body & mind wellness. Aris leads by example as she practices what she preaches. She leads an alcohol free and smoke free lifestyle and has worked out while following proper nutrition practices for over 10 years. In the last few years she also started participating in 5k races, adventure runs and triathlons. You can visit Aris at any of her following:

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