Habits. Good, bad and some in between those two. By definition a habit is an acquired mode of behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary. While we’re proud of all our good habits and enjoy our bad ones we know we need to make a change. And if you’re here, reading this article, chances are you want to learn the secret to breaking bad habits.
Before we get to the secret, let’s see why are bad habits so hard to break. Firstly, habits have a lot to do with behavioral psychology. When you act or think in a particular way over a period of time, habits form. As well as in our behaviour as in our memory system. Basically, it’s like you’re on auto-pilot. Your brain memorises your actions, thoughts and feelings and acts accordingly.
Another reason why it might be hard to ditch bad habits is because they’re habits. It’s something we’re used to. It’s our comfort zone and even if we know these habits are bad, we’re okay with that. Because we’re afraid to introduce something new to our routine, we’re afraid of change. When we get rid of that fear and we step out of our comfort zone then, and only then, we can truly change.
In addition, if you’re feeling anxious, stressed out or are going through something, breaking a bad habit can be even more difficult. Whatever it may be in your case, it is important to remember that bad habits may be difficult to break but not impossible.
With that said here’s how to break your bad habits once and for all.
Breaking Bad Habits In Five Steps
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE, INSPIRATIONAL PEOPLE.
Your surroundings, your environment – it’s everything. If you think about it, it’s so SO simple. If you’re around people who have bad habits, like smoking, drinking, gossiping, swearing, living on fast food, etc. you’re bound to pick up some of their habits. It’s mostly because that’s what you know of, that’s what you’re used to, that’s what’s your ‘comfort zone’.
Are you currently hanging out with a circle of friends who have those habits or similar ones? How do you feel when you’re with them? Are you happy, full of energy, content with yourself or sad, insecure, feeling drained and thinking how you REALLY need to change something in your life?
Life is short so the best thing you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with people who make you happy. With people who have dreams, desire and ambition. They’ll help you push for and realise your own. Be with people who won’t judge you when you have a bad day and who you can talk to about anything. Your world will change, promise. If you wanna ditch a bad habit remember that a good friend(s) will be there for you if you need help on the way!
PLAN FOR FAILURE.
For starters, here are my two favourite quotes about failure:
“When you screw up, skip a workout, eat bad foods, sleep in, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club.”
“Failure is not the opposite of success. It is part of success.”
There is around 0% chance you’ll say “I’m gonna quit this bad habit of mine” and actually do it on the first try. Failure is sometimes inevitable so plan for it and don’t beat yourself up over it. Nonetheless, planning to fail doesn’t mean that you expect to fail but rather that you know what you’ll do when/if things don’t work out.
What separates successful people from unsuccessful is the fact they get up each and ever time they fall. They get back on track quickly and don’t give up. The road to success is not straight but rather bumpy, curvy and full of obstacles. So making a failure plan guarantees you’ll come out a winner in those situations. Moreover, when you recognise that individual failures have very little impact on your long-term success you can more easily bounce back from failures and setbacks.
PURSUE POSITIVE GOALS.
Breaking bad habits involves a lot of psychology and mind games. For example, you’re more likely to achieve a goal that involves reaching a desired outcome rather than eliminating undesired outcome. So if you say to yourself “I will STOP eating junk food” you’re more likely to fail than if you say “I will START eating healthier”. (nudge, nudge if you have trouble with sugar cravings learn how to fight them)
Working towards a positive goal makes it that much easier to get excited by the thought of reaching it. On the other hand, following a negative goal brings less satisfaction with the progress you make. As well as decreased self-esteem and feelings of incompetence. All these emotions make it harder for us to take action and break a bad habit.
Have a few more examples of positive vs. negative goals:
- I will stop checking my phone first thing in the morning vs. I will start smelling the fresh air outside for 5 minutes first thing in the morning
- I will stop smoking vs. I will start taking care of my health
- I will stop emotional eating vs. I will start writing down how I feel
- I will stop going to bed late vs. I will start getting better sleep
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS.
We all have something that triggers our bad habits. For me personally it’s right after I eat lunch. That’s my trigger, that’s when I really want something sweet. When I was little my parents always let me have (and offered me) something sweet after lunch and that has really stuck in my memory, kinda like a reflex. Because of that now I have to fight myself with post-lunch cravings and let me tell you it’s not always easy.
Although, every day in that moment I try to think reasonably. I ask myself do I really need this cookie/chocolate/candy and I try to think how will it make me feel if I have it. Also, I say “girl, you can’t have something sweet every day. It might not seem like much now when you’re young, but it will catch up with you when you’re older. So think about that. Try to go at least 4-5 days without sweets then have some.” And I gotta say, that has worked quite a few times now. After that I wait an hour or so and then I have either fruit (apple, banana, watermelon, etc.) or a protein shake to satisfy my sweet tooth.
If you don’t know what’s your cue, your trigger, start paying attention. Once you figure it out write it down if you have to. For example, let’s say that you have a cigarette with your morning coffee. It’s not even a question of do you want it, you just instinctively take it because you programmed your mind to do so. You don’t think about it, you just do it. So tomorrow when you have your coffee, stop and think for a second. Leave your cigarettes in a cupboard or a closet far out of your sight, sit down and enjoy your coffee. Preferably with a view to the outside.
Another good example is if you have a habit of checking your phone first thing in the morning. Leave your phone in another room before you go to bed. That way you’ll at least get up and make your bed before you check your phone. And who knows maybe you decide to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth and have a glass of water too, all before you touch your phone!
THINK ABOUT YOUR WHY.
Think about the bad habits you want to break then think about why you want to do so. And I suggest you write it all down on a piece of paper which you can carry with you wherever you go. Why do you want to lose weight? To look good? To fit in a smaller sized clothes? Those are decent reasons but how about the fact you’ll feel better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll be happier? Those are the reasons that will keep you going.
Now let’s say you want to stop smoking and imagine what will change if you do so. You’ll get more years to enjoy this planet and you’ll be around longer with your kids and grandkids. There are deeper, more meaningful reasons for each habit you want to quit. Write those reasons down and have a look at them each morning and night.
Hopefully you found these tips helpful and you start implementing them on your ‘Breaking Bad Habits’ journey. If you feel need any help on your way I’m always here so feel free to leave a comment and get in touch with me!