Here are some simple tips for how to avoid the junk food shopping trolley, the energy-draining binge watching session or the trip down for another pack of cigarettes.

It’s generally true that healthy people are happy people. It’s also true that one or two bad habits can have dramatic affects on overall quality of life. Kicking unhealthy habits doesn’t just affect your overall life satisfaction either – it can have big affects on your wallet too. Here are four ways you can condition yourself for change…

  1. Know yourself.

You’ll have had plenty of time to recognise the bad habits. Now is the time to take a good hard look in the mirror. Then you’ll need to think of ways to ‘trick’ the old you out of the old negative tendencies.

When do you hit that time at night when you’re at risk of falling asleep in front of the TV? Start feeling snoozy around 9.45? Then make sure you’ve finished watching anything by 9.30 and the TV is turned off. Spend too much on unhealthy food while grocery shopping? Make sure you’ve got a full belly before you step behind a trolley. And if you’re regularly walking back from work past a tempting fast food spot, try changing your route.

  1. Set very specific goals.

Saying things “I’m going to get fit” or “I’ll aim to spend less on impulse purchases” often can do more harm than good. Even if you’re undertaking the odd positive change it won’t feel like much and it will be easy to become disheartened.

You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish simply by changing “I want to run more” to “I will go jogging twice a week, rain or shine, whether I want to or not.”

  1. Schedule in the time.

Bad habits love a vacuum. If you don’t have plans for anything (or are still on the same routines that attracted them in the first place) it’s easy to stay in that rut. Also, with the ever-increasing blurring of work and leisure time, it’s easy to get carried away with work (or Netflix) and not leave yourself space to breathe and focus on positive actions and outcomes.

That’s why it can help to get thoroughly organised. Need to get exercise? Make a time for it, set an alarm, and don’t turn the alarm off until you’re actually moving!

  1. Stick with it.

You won’t change a bad habit overnight – if you could it probably wouldn’t be a habit! There’s a popular saying that “it takes 21 days to break a bad habit”. This type of thinking is dangerous. It’s easy to believe it simply won’t happen if you haven’t made complete progress after a few weeks. The 21 days figure is also absolutely false.

The primary evidence-backed research comes from a 2009 study that followed 96 adults who wanted to change one specific behaviour type. The findings from this study suggested that breaking a habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. So stick with it – you’ll be glad you did!