Out with the Old and In with the New

Anxiety, Depression

Tips to Helping Develop New, Healthy Habits

| Written by Jane Dustman, MSW, LCSW

Photo by Vicky Tran from Pexels.com

Have you ever heard of  the saying, “it takes 21 days to break or form a habit?” While this may be true for some, it does not necessarily mean it is true for all.  Habits are our regular or formed tendencies that we practice and engage in which are specifically, and typically, hard to give up.  While some habits may be able to break easily compared to others, some habits can take anywhere from 18 days to 250 days to break and/or to start implementing.

Do not run off just yet, while it may be intimidating to think about, provided below are some helpful tips to help break old habits, and implement new, healthy habits on a daily basis. 


A Body in Motion Stays in Motion

Being on that “9 to 5” grind can really put a damper on things when it comes to thinking about exercise following that long work day. Most of the time, following a long day, we tend to want to lay horizontal and relax and forget about what the earlier part of the day brought us. 

While the couch does sound good, it is super important to keep your body in motion to help improve anxiety and depression, increase your metabolic rate, help have a sharp memory and critical thinking skills, develop healthy muscles and bones and ultimately help you sleep. Provided below are some helpful tips to keep your body moving.

  • Walking- whether you are on a treadmill or walking throughout town these are two ways to keep the body in motion.  If you are not in the mood for that, you can always walk around during commercials in your living room or take the stairs instead of the elevator if you want to get those steps in.  
  • Exercise- while this one may seem to be the most common sense, we are not just talking about High Intensity Interval Training or Cardio.  Exercise can be done in your home, outside or at a gym.  15 minutes of exercise at a time is efficient enough to ensure your body is moving but not overextending yourself in a pinch of time.
  • Rhythmic Exercises- here we go again with exercise.  Following up from what was previously stated, not all exercise needs to be HIIT training or pure cardio.  Walking, running, dancing, yoga, swimming, and rowing are all considered rhythmic exercises.  Rhythmic exercises are where you move your entire body at the same time.
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Nourishing Your Body

When life provides us with a busy schedule, we tend to neglect our wants/needs in a lot of senses; one of them being nourishing our bodies with nutrients and water.

Due to hectic schedules, an increase in cortisol, or essentially not having enough time, we tend to crave foods that are not providing the proper nutrients that we need to help keep us energized, or even sustained. We reach for the processed foods and foods that are filled with sugar, to help satisfy our craving, but unfortunately, we crash harder.

While there is no such thing as “bad foods”, it is important to ensure you are integrating foods that are enriched with nutrients to help keep you going during those busy days.  Provided are some foods that you can add in to help get the proper nutrients you need:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Whole grains
  • Dairy 
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • 91-125 ounces of water per day                                                                                                                   

Healthy Sleep Routine

Sleep hygiene is extremely crucial to help us reboot, recharge and take on what is to come.  Sadly, there are a multitude of things that can affect your sleep, leaving you restless, tired and turning to the sugars and caffeine to keep it moving. Sleep hygiene is super important and with just the right amount of determination, you can accomplish and reboot your sleep habits. 

  • Remove electronics/TV etc. and stop looking at them at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Avoid big meals or snacks two hours before bed
  • Set aside at maximum eight hours of sleep per night and try and go to sleep at the same time each night
  • Limit day time naps.  And if you need a nap, 20 minutes will suffice for the reboot/rest you need
  • Create a calm, soothing environment- typically keep your room dark, cool and quiet
  • Physical activity can help promote healthy sleep patterns, however, avoid being active close to your bedtime. 
  • Create worry time at least an hour before bed to help jot down your thoughts and to help go to bed with a clear, relaxed mind

Find What Makes you Happy

Busy schedules, not enough time and things piling up on your plate can lead to burnout due to excessive stress. While some of the things are completely outside of our control, we tend to internalize things which leads us to feeling down, depleted, unmotivated and possibly experience low self-worth.

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With the accumulation of negative thoughts and feelings, we tend to gravitate towards things that make us feel good instantly to help wipe away the pain/struggle.  Unfortunately, a lot of those outlets are just quick, temporary fixes and are considered maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Coping mechanisms are defined as thoughts, actions and behaviors that help manage and mitigate stressful situations, both internal and externally. Coping mechanisms are important to help an individual find their outlet or release, to combat negative emotions and feelings and to help get through the day as best as possible.

Here are a couple of different coping mechanism strategies that are considered to be healthy outlets:

  • Meditate or ground yourself through yoga
  • Creative arts- write, draw, paint, etc.
  • Keep that body moving
  • Increasing positive self–regard
  • implementing positive self-talk
  • Listen to or play music
  • Utilizing your supports

Breaking habits may be hard when one thinks about it, however, developing new, healthy habits is exciting, fun and ultimately rewarding. Whether it takes 18 days, or takes 250 days, new habits can 100% be started and continued to have that achieved goal.  Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. 

If you are struggling with breaking old, maladaptive habits and are having a hard time coping or need an outlet to process your thoughts, emotions and behaviors, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Licensed professionals can help you talk through your feelings, find techniques and skill sets to help break old habits in an attempt to start new ones, while challenging negative thoughts and promoting positive, balanced outcomes.


Jane Dustman is a LCSW who enjoys spending her free time with family and friends, hanging on the beach, practicing yoga and dancing. Jane is dedicated to her practice of social work and enjoys being a full-time therapist at Exceptional Wellness Counseling.

EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.

Check out Jane’s professional bio here.

Email Us: info@exceptionalwellnesscounseling.com

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