Today marks exactly 30 days off coffee for me. Surprisingly the first 10 days were easier than the last couple of weeks. It really got me to thinking about how we are such creatures of habit. I began to examine what worked for me in breaking this habit of coffee drinking, which, for anyone that knows me, has been that one thing I “needed” to start my day or keep me going. It was one of my last standing vices in my sobriety. I have had a few people ask me how I quit coffee, so I decided to put together my 4 tips to successfully break a habit.
1) Make the decision based off of the value it brings to your life.
I wanted to give up coffee for quite some time, but kept saying “I’ll do it tomorrow.” There were several reasons, or values, that contributed to my desire to break this habit.
Mainly for health reasons because I understand that it goes against creating an alkaline environment in our bodies, which promotes better health and helps defend our bodies from cancer. It was also because I wasn’t drinking it black, but instead loaded with sugar and cream, which isn’t good for me either because it ultimately ended up leaving me feeling fatigued. Lastly, because I have reached a point in life where I just don’t want anything to have even the slightest “control” over me. It was one of the last fleeting addictions I wanted to stretch myself to beat.
These reasons were my values in the decision. I gave a lot of thought and emphasis on how changing this behavior would add to my life. Breaking the habit shifted from only something I wanted, into something I felt my body and life needed. This helped me to give more weight to following through on it because I correlated it to the value it would bring to my life.
2) Give yourself something as a positive reinforcement each day.
Part of breaking habits is changing our behaviors and routines. For me, I would wake up and make coffee almost even in my sleep. In order to help change the habit I started drinking herbal tea and also a little bit of green tea to help with the caffeine withdrawals. The tea helped to be a positive reinforcement and wean me off not only the caffeine but the habit itself. Not to mention, I was introduced to Teavana, which is amazing and they have so many flavors to choose from that it feels like a treat every time I have it.
It’s important in any transition in life to be your own cheerleader. By offering yourself a reward of some sort each day for rising to the challenge of breaking a habit, you actually retrain your subconscious mind to be conditioned differently and associate differently with the habit. The positive reinforcement ends up replacing the habit eventually.
3) Keep track of your streak.
I’m a relatively competitive person that loves checking off checklists. So, I started tracking “my streak” with this awesome app called Streaks. It helps you check off days that you are doing something consecutively or in a streak. For me it was off coffee, but it could be off sugar, sobriety, negativity, gossiping, etc. The app is great because it helps you track your progress and adds a layer of accountability. I actually shared my streak on social media, which additionally boosted my motivation to keep it going.
When breaking a habit it is very important to track your progress because this helps you each time you are faced with the temptation of slipping or falling back into it. When you have skin in the game, it makes it harder to want to forfeit your time already invested into breaking the habit.
4) Prepare and plan for temptation.
Coffee is pretty much available everywhere. Starbucks and Coffee Bean were always the go-to spots for my coffee fix. Naturally, when I see them they trigger my brain to think of the taste of coffee. So, when I decided to quit, I had to mentally prepare myself for what I would do in those situations where it would inevitably come up. So, by using the first 3 tips to back this one, I’m able to resist the temptations as they come.
Another good way to prepare is actually to create obstacles for yourself that prevent you from doing the habit. I threw out all my coffee at home, so I didn’t even have it available. I did not plan coffee meetings with anyone the past 30 days and if I was in a situation where I could have ordered coffee, I order tea instead. Because I planned ahead for the temptations I might face, when they came up, I was better prepared to battle them.
I also reminded myself throughout the process to give myself some grace and not be too hard on myself if I did slip up because I knew that I was making a real effort. I think that is also essential to keep in mind. If you fall off track, just get right back on and keep doing your best.
I read a Zig Ziglar quote the other day that said,
“All bad habits start off slowly and gradually, and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.”
At the end of the day, breaking a habit is not an easy task. We are wired for comfort and routine. Our bodies and brains are easily trained into a habit. However, it is possible to set yourself up for success by putting a system in place that works for you. These are tips that proved to be helpful in breaking a habit for me. I would encourage you to give them a try if there is a habit you are trying to overcome.