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How to HALT Bad Habits

Bad habits can be hard to kick. We all probably know the old saying that it takes twice as long to break a habit as it does to form one, so it isn’t surprising that having bad habits ingrained in our daily life can be pretty common! 

If you’re ready to stop those bad habits that are affecting your personal (and professional) life, then there is an important acronym you need to know: HALT! When we are experiencing HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, we are most vulnerable to turning to bad habits. First, I want to explain why each item is included in our acronym, and then give you a tip to help recognize these issues and prevent the return to bad habits. 

 

HUNGRY 

Did you know that the gut actually manufactures 95% of the serotonin in our body? When we are stressed or struggling in some way, turning to food can be truly comforting!

If we aren’t organized with our meals as well, sitting down and eating something can actually feel like a productive accomplishment. Our hunger can encourage any bad habits we might want to turn to relating to food.

ANGRY

When we are trying to break habits, I have observed that sometimes people will actually turn back to an old habit (like texting an ex, impulse spending on items you really don’t need, or having that extra glass of wine). 

When we experience anger, we sometimes do these things to punctuate our emotions and show to others (and ourselves) that this is a big deal to us. By turning to old habits, we are effectively saying “Wow, I feel really provoked by this emotion/event, so I’m going to show it by doing XYZ.” 

LONELY

Many bad habits can actually revolve around connections and relationships. Think about it-bad drinking habits can be encouraged by drinking buddies, smoking can be encouraged by our co-workers all taking a smoke break together in the front of the building, and addictive relationships can become so toxic because two people can’t say no to each other.

Loneliness can be a hot button emotion when it comes to bad habits, because we can often find some sort of connectivity and community around our habits.

TIRED 

When we are tired, our coping skills are weaker, our mind is fatigued, and our mindfulness skills are dulled. Because of this, we can be less self aware, and self awareness is key to changing our behavior. 

If you find yourself having an urge to either participate in a bad habit or revisit an old one, I recommend taking a deep breath (you can find my tutorial on how to do a three part breath linked here). Take a big breath, scan your mental state and your body, and ask yourself: am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired right now? 

If you are, try to think about what you might do to solve that. If you feel hungry, maybe try your hand at the new, healthy recipe you have bookmarked, or if you feel lonely, maybe that's a cue it’s time for a game night with your friend! 

Even if you feel very focused on doing the bad habit, it might be good to ask yourself hypothetically: if I was feeling hungry, angry, tired, or lonely, what actions could I take to manage that emotion and step away from this habit? Thinking like this can help us prepare for future emotional states, and provides us with options we can turn to in the future.

Having an understanding and awareness of HALT can be key to identifying stressors that lead us to bad habits, and ultimately creating a healthier and more enjoyable life for ourselves!