6 Best Ways To Break A Bad Habit
How do we deal with those constantly repeated activities that hold us back from our full potential? Bad habits can range from minor tics (such as biting fingernails) to damaging behaviors that can disrupt your whole life (such as chronic procrastination or overeating).
Everyone falls into harmful habits from time to time, so knowing how to break a bad habit is an important life skill to have. If you’ve been recently dogged by a bad habit you can’t shake, here are six ways to break it.
6 Best Ways To Break A Bad Habit
1. Avoid triggers.
Most bad habits are triggered by a particular situation or set of circumstances. If you often find yourself staying up too late, for example, this behavior might be a result of drinking or eating too much too close to bedtime. If you aren’t sure what triggers your bad habit, start paying attention to the time, place, and emotional state that coincides with the actions you’re trying to correct. Oftentimes, the real cause is something psychological, such as stress, anxiety, or simple boredom.
2. Replace your habits
Simply stopping a bad habit outright can be almost impossible. Frequently, a better approach is a more indirect tactic, in which the bad habit is replaced with something else less damaging. For example, let’s say you drink soda pop all day, and want to quit for health reasons. This habit may be so ingrained that quitting cold turkey just isn’t in the cards. Instead, try replacing the soda with juice, vitamin water, or some other, healthier drink.
3. Make’em harder to do
Most bad habits are completed mindlessly — almost before you’ve realized what’s happening, you’re in the middle of doing it again. But, making the habit tougher can give you a chance to come to your senses, summon your willpower, and stop yourself before you go any farther. For example, let’s say you have an issue with browsing the web when you should be working. Temporarily shutting off your connection to the internet can help break this destructive habit. Similarly, if you compulsively chew your fingernails, wearing gloves could stop this behavior.
4. Concentrate On The Potential Harm
Concentrate on why the habit is so bad. Ultimately, we keep practicing bad habits because they provide us with psychological satisfaction or happiness of some sort. That is, the habit is still a positive experience, at least in the moment. Focusing on why the habit is damaging can make it easier to resist. For example, if you love snacking on junk food, focusing on how unhealthy and fattening these products are will make them much less appealing. If you find more positive associations crowding into your mind, just remind yourself of why the habit is so bad.
5. Be resilient
Unfortunately, bad habits can be very powerful. The deeper a habit is embedded in your life, the more effort it will require to overcome. That means that occasional setbacks and mistakes are inevitable. The key is recovering from these failures and pushing forward again. Depending on how strong of a hold a bad habit has on you, it may take months to defeat it. Understanding this will help you adopt the realistic attitude required to bounce back from the moments when you slip up.
6. Solve the underlying problem
As mentioned, most bad habits are set off by a particular trigger. Behind this trigger, however, often lies a deeper issue. For example, a person who drinks too much may be depressed or using alcohol to cope with social anxiety. Usually, if you think carefully, you can identify what really lies behind your damaging habit. Until the fundamental problem is resolved, other methods for dealing with the habit may not be ultimately effective. That’s why, although it may be difficult or painful, addressing the underlying psychological cause for a bad habit is crucial.
Bad habits can waste time and energy, and stop you from accomplishing what you want to. Some can even hurt your physical or mental health. At their worst, a bad habit can feel like a prison from which you can’t escape. Bad habits of this sort may require major effort to overcome. Of course, other habits are minor and may be defeated more easily. Whichever category the bad habit you want to quit falls into, the six methods described above will help you break it.