How can you break bad habits? Before you can break away from something you know is bad for you, you may need to replace it.
This can be troublesome, especially if the negative habit you’re trying to replace has given you lots of pleasure in the past. Let’s look at what creates a habit and how you can break away from ones that aren’t good for you.
The Three R’s of a Habit
You don’t just create habits overnight. As a small child, you were told to wash your hands before a meal, flush after using the toilet, or keep your hands off your face. Over time and practice, these things become habits.
All habits have three R’s in common:
• Reminder – A trigger or cue to tell you to engage your habit
• Routine – Behavior associate with the trigger
• Reward – The thing you get out of performing the behavior
Let’s Break Those Bad Habits
Create Friction or Simplify, Depending Upon Your Need
If you want to create a good habit to replace a bad one, you need to make it easier to do the good habit. This could mean you want to go to the gym more, which might mean you pack your gym clothes the night before and choose a gym that’s on your route to and from work.
When you simply want to end a negative habit, you need to make it more difficult to use that habit. This could mean you put the alarm clock or phone away from your bed so that you have to get up in the morning and can’t easily hit the snooze button.
Identify Your Triggers
When you change the triggers to your bad habits, you’re giving yourself a chance to avoid the behavior associated with that habit. If you need to, grab a small notebook and make notes about some of your patterns that lead to your negative behavior.
Things you could note include:
• Where does the habitual behavior happen?
• What time of day?
• How do you feel when it happens?
• Are other people involved?
• Does it happen right after another activity?
Create Better Reasons for Changing Your Ways
One of the most common habits that people want to change and have a hard time doing so is smoking cigarettes. The science is sound, we know this is bad for us, but too many people try and fail to quit. In fact, millions of dollars are spent every year on products made to help people quit this habit.
If the reason you’ve given yourself for quitting smoking is only to save your own health, that might not be enough. Too often, we care less about ourselves than others in our family. Instead, think about being able to stick around long enough to see your grandchildren grow up or to spend more of your life with your spouse. These might be reasons that are strong enough to keep you on the path to a smoke-free life.
Change Your Language and Change Your Mindset
One simple change in your logic and responses to certain triggers could be all it takes to help you get rid of some of the bad habits you’ve been dealing with. Change your response to your triggers from “I can’t” to “I don’t.” This one change could remind you that you don’t allow yourself to succumb to things you’ve been trying to cut out of your life and avoid. Try it and see how it works for you.
Plan for Failure
How are you going to respond when you fall back into one of your bad habits? Are you going to toss in the towel, give up, and never try to change again? That doesn’t sound very good, does it? Instead, create a plan for getting back on track after you fail. The habit you’re trying to change didn’t happen overnight; neither will the change that will make a positive difference in your life.
Get Some Support
One of the best ways to get away from a habit that has been bad for you is to enlist the help of a friend. If you both partake in the same habit and both want to change, you can be supportive of each other. You may even want to make a competition out of the change and see which one of you can make the most progress.
Even if your friend isn’t trying to change, having someone that you can talk to and hold you accountable, be a shoulder to cry on, and help put you back on track could lead to amazing success.