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Do you have a bad habit that you’d like to break?
Most people do. So, don’t feel alone.
Habits are hard to break. And, the longer you’ve had a habit, the harder it seems to be to let it go. Whether it’s heading towards the coffee pot first thing when you get up, when what you really want, and need, is water; or if you simply want to stop biting your nails. It’s difficult; I can attest to that!
What I’m going to share with you, is some ways to help you out on your journey to breaking your old bad habits! And, you won’t only learn what the top layer of the tip is, like ‘find a new habit to replace the old one’; but I’ll also be having you understanding why each tip is useful to breaking a bad habit.
I’m not going to guarantee that every single one of these tips will work for you; everyone is different, gets motivated, and changes their habits in their own way. But, if you go through each one of these tips whole-heartily, you’ll surely be on your way to breaking that bad habit of yours!!
1. Find a New Good Habit to Replace the Old Bad One
Breaking an old habit is hard! But, when you try to give it up all at once and with nothing to replace it with; it’s about ten times harder! Let’s take the coffee habit for example. So, you wake up and you head straight for the coffee pot, pour it in your mug, add some creamer, then start drinking it. You’re doing this before you even know what you’re doing in the morning; that’s what makes it a habit. Now, say you deliberately did not do that one morning. You’d be craving that coffee, that warm delicious drink, within minutes of waking up; you’ll most likely give in and just get some, even if it takes a little extra work.
But, what if you started drinking warm water with lemon in it, or some type of tea, instead. You would have that same feeling you get with your warm coffee; that warmth from a drink that you crave when you awake in the morning. The only real difference is going to be the taste. But hey, taste buds change. So, after deliberately doing this for a few weeks you’ll get used to the taste change. And, after not too long, you’ll automatically pour hot water into a mug and add a lemon slice, or a tea bag, and drink that instead!
It sounds really simple, right? That’s because it is. The hardest part is to have enough control over yourself to start the change. After the first few days, it’ll get easier, I promise. And, this works with more than just coffee. Just find a similar good habit you can replace the bad habit with. Like taking a deep breath and counting to 10 before responding to your child’s misbehavior, instead of automatically reacting to their behavior and yelling at them.
2. Understand Why you Want to Cut it Out
Yes, metacognition! Or, in other words ‘thinking about thinking’.
Start with the straight forward here; why do you want to end this specific habit? You’re reading this because you want to get rid of bad habits, so on some level the habit is bad and you know this.
But, what makes it bad? Is it that you would rather have another habit replace it, or does it cause you stress or anxiety? Does it make you gain weight, or harm you or someone else on some level? Will breaking the habit make you a better person? Healthier? Wealthier? Or, happier?
Answer some of those questions above that may apply. Then figure out why you think like that. Don’t think about what will make you healthier or happier; you already know the what, if you didn’t then you probably wouldn’t be trying to change the habit. Rather, think about what makes you think it will be healthier or help you become happier.
For example, what makes you think that drinking warm water with lemon in it first thing in the morning is healthier than drinking coffee? (Because you already believe that it will make you healthier.) For me, I know that citrus fruits help with the immune system and that the first thing we put in our bodies in the morning should be water, then maybe some fruit. So, boosting my immune system and providing my body with the water it needs first thing in the morning is a no-brainer habit change. I also know that drinking coffee first thing in the morning prevents our body from naturally waking us up.
Now, why do you think the way you do about the habit you want to break? Knowing this answer will help strengthen your motivation and get you started with breaking that bad habit. Writing your answer down will also benefit you when you’re feeling weak and ready to give into the habit again. Remind yourself of the reasons behind changing your habit as often as you need!
3.Understand Why you Formed the Bad Habit in the First Place
Let’s do a little more thinking. Think back to when this habit just started. There’s a good chance that it didn’t start as a bad habit, or a habit at all. Maybe it helped you in some way or you enjoyed it and told yourself you’d only do it once in awhile. Like, enjoying a piece of cake after a hard day at work, or with the kids. Then, somewhere along the way you noticed that you were baking a cake at least once a week and having a slice every single night! And, you know this isn’t good for you, or your waistline. But, it’s become a habit and you feel like you can’t stop.
Well, there you go. You now know how it all started; you had a stressful day and needed a way to relax. Knowing why you formed the habit will help you determine if you need a replacement habit or what you can do to break the bad habit. Now, what do you think you could do at the end of a hard day to relax? Maybe; read a book, watch a show, take a shower and listen to music to unwind. All of those examples are going to be much better alternatives than eating cake everyday, much cheaper, too!
You can go back in time in your mind and do this with any habit, and then figure out how you can change it! For my coffee example, I started drinking coffee in the morning to feel more awake and to give me more energy, but by doing so I have been inhibiting my own body from being able to wake itself up naturally. So, instead of replacing coffee with another caffeinated drink (because I want my body to wake itself up), I want to choose a warm drink in the morning, instead.
4. Picture a Perfect Day
If you’re losing focus, or motivation, to break your bad habit; try imagining what a perfect day in your life would look like. What would you be doing? Do you see yourself practicing your bad habits, or are they non-existent? Are there any new habits that you see yourself doing? What are you eating through out the day? What’s different in that day than how you’re living now? What’s the same?
This mental image of your perfect day will help motivate you to break your bad habits; so you can get closer to the life you imagine for yourself! It may even show you what habits to instill to get rid of your bad habits, or what you should be doing through out the day to get closer to your goals in life. Use this as some extra inspiration to break your bad habits.
5. Focus on One Habit at a Time
…unless that one habit is triggered by another habit (more on this in the next tip); but even then, try breaking the trigger habit first.
I know, if you’re anything like me then you may have this long list of habits that you have that you may not be a fan of and want to break ASAP. Unfortunately, it’s not very realistic to try to break as many habits as possible all at the same time. You could try, but you may not get that far. In fact, it’s actually counter productive to do that; it’s hard to break a habit, so just try imagining breaking more than one at a time. It takes will power to break a bad habit, or start a new one to replace it with; we only have so much will power in a single day.
So, keep it simple and only try to break one habit at a time. Be sure not to move on to breaking another habit til the first one is completely out of your life. This may take longer than you’d like, but if you don’t want to relapse and allow the habit back into your life, then this is the way to go!
6. Know What Triggers the Bad Habit
So, we discussed that you should understand where a habit comes from and why you have it. This tip is somewhat part of that, but it deserves to be a tip all by itself because of it’s importance in breaking a habit.
You need to know what triggers a habit. Because, even if you understand where your habit came from; the specific reasons behind forming the habit may be long gone and lost somewhere in your memory where you can’t retrieve it, but the trigger to keep you practicing it isn’t.
One very common trigger to a lot of different bad habits is stress. If this is the case for you, then you need to find a healthy way to deal with your stress and relax. Read a book, watch a show, take a nap, or do something productive to relieve the stress in your life, instead of practicing your bad habit. I know, it’s much easier said than done; but it’s important to try. There are other triggers as well, so be on the look out for what triggers your bad habits so you can catch yourself before you partake in it again.
Your trigger could be as simple as grabbing a ton of food to binge on before sitting down to watch TV so you can mindlessly eat; next time just grab some water. Or, to go along with my coffee example above; the trigger could be just waking up. You wake up, the coffee is already made because you set the coffee to brew itself, then you grab a cup, pour it, and start drinking. In this case, don’t preset the coffee, or make getting warm lemon water just as easy in the mornings so you’re not as tempted to get the coffee. Whatever way you look at it; knowing what triggers your bad habit will help you break it; it will serve as a warning sign that the bad habit is about to start.
7. Tell Others that You Want to Break it
Sometimes trying to break a habit yourself is too hard and you need some outside motivation, or you’re a people pleaser and don’t want others knowing that you don’t have enough will power to break a bad habit. Either way, telling others that you’re trying to break a habit will surely help you break it! (Unless you’re rebellious!)
Telling someone else that you want to break a bad habit is like telling them it’s alright for them to watch you to make sure you don’t continue that habit. If you practice the habit in front of them, then they can call you out on it. If it’s the coffee example from above then it’s helpful in multiple ways; they can keep you accountable and help you avoid temptation, especially if you tell the people you live with. For example, if I told my husband that I wanted to stop drinking coffee as my first drink of the day (first, he would probably laugh at me); then he would take the coffee sitting next to me and put it in the kitchen so that I would have to get up if I wanted it back. He may even bring my water over to me instead, probably not, but he might if I asked him to.
8. Commit 100% to Breaking the Habit
Committing 100% to breaking your bad habit may sound like an obvious tip, but it’s earned it’s spot on this list because of it’s importance, and the fact that not many people fully commit! If you are not fully committed to breaking your habit then your habit will stay with you, no matter how hard you try to get rid of it. You need to be willing to give it up.
Breaking bad habits is a little like a mind game. You can try as hard as you want on the outside to get rid of your bad habit, but if you can’t convince yourself on the inside that you truly want to give it up, then good luck… You will be the hardest person to convince that you don’t need the habit anymore; that you can actually live or thrive without it. In other words; you won’t be able to break your bad habit until you are 100% fully committed to breaking it.
9. Be Truthful to Yourself
Along with being 100% committed to breaking your habit; you must also be truthful about your habit to yourself. If you are tracking the days that you can go without practicing your bad habit; don’t lie to yourself about it. Be honest if you practice the bad habit, if you tell a little white lie to yourself then you won’t ever break it.
For example, let’s go back to the coffee example; if you take a sip of coffee first thing in the morning then write it down on your tracking sheet. Don’t put down that you didn’t have a cup of coffee just because you only had a sip; if it makes you feel better write down that you just had a sip, or a few sips. Then you can start trying to decrease the amount of sips you have each day until you don’t have any at all. But, if you write down that you didn’t have a cup because you only had a few sips, then you’re lying to yourself and making yourself believe you can get away with having a few sips in the morning because you’re not going to write it down anyways.
If you lie to yourself and allow yourself to do a little bit of the habit and ‘get away with it’, then you’re sabotaging your chances of breaking that habit. This is why you need to be truthful to yourself about what you do and preferably write down how you are doing each day with breaking your habit to keep yourself accountable.
10. Don’t Move onto Breaking Another Bad Habit too Quickly
It takes time to break a habit, whether you believe in the 21 days or 66 days that it takes to make or break a habit. That’s why you can’t move onto breaking another habit too quickly. If you try to, it will backfire; you’ll slide right back into the previous bad habit you had, only to give yourself the will power to start breaking another habit. If this starts to happen then you have two choices; go back and finish breaking the first habit, or let that one go and focus on the second one til it’s broken. Either way, you just wasted all the time you spent on trying to break the first habit, and you can’t get that time back.
Don’t move on from the first habit immediately after it’s broken. Wait a few weeks after it’s broken to make sure it won’t come back. I know it’s hard to take your time; especially when you have quite a few other habits you want to break as well. But, it’s better to take your time now to make sure it’s really gone, than to move on too quickly and destroy all the progress you already made.
Breaking a habit is hard work and takes time, don’t make it be any harder or take any longer. Follow the tips above to make sure you’ll have an easier time breaking your bad habits. Make sure you’re not lying to yourself about breaking the habit. Find a person to help you stay accountable, or at least try to replace your bad habit with a good one.
There are far more tips than the list above, but the list above will give you a fighting chance at ridding your life of those habits you have and despise. Just don’t give up, or your habits will win, and we don’t want that!!
Share with someone having trouble breaking bad habits, or just share if you thought this was helpful!!