We all have bad habits we’d like to remove from our lives- some more consequential than others. While breaking negative behaviors isn’t easy, it is possible and you can be successful. Follow these 10 small steps to ditch your bad habits for good.
While there may be many habits you want to break, it’s usually best to focus on one at a time. Decide which of your habits you’re ready to take on, and make it your focus.
What is the underlying issue that caused you to form this habit in the first place? Every habit has a function that can help you understand how it serves you. Do you bite your nails because you’re stressed? Do you eat more when you’re feeling lonely? You know yourself better than anyone, so you’ll be able to figure it out with focused intention.
You’re naturally aware of the things that don’t serve your best interest. However, as we get older, we learn how to tune ourselves out and justify participating in these behaviors anyway. You have trouble sleeping at night, yet can’t say ‘no’ to your 3:00pm cup of coffee. It may be uncomfortable at first, but trusting and honoring your wisdom is one of the first big steps towards changing a habit. You have the answers within you- listen to yourself!
Another thing to consider is to start listening to your body instead of your mind. Your body speaks to you and tells you what it needs, and oftentimes our minds can overshadow our body’s cues. Again, your body is a fountain of wisdom, so try to be receptive to its cues and you may find the process to be easier.
A major part of changing a behavior is learning to pause when you find yourself wanting to act on bad habits. If you find yourself reaching for an unhealthy snack when you’re stressed, even though you aren’t even hungry, pause when you become conscious of what you’re doing and find something else to engage in. It can be as small as participating in a minute of deep breathing, going for a walk, or drinking a glass of water. Remember: finding a healthy behavior to replace the one you’re trying to stop is how you create lifelong change.
If you have one friend who takes smoke breaks every time you get together, which causes you to partake as well, distance yourself from that friend. It doesn’t have to be forever- just until you feel strong enough to not be influenced by them anymore.
Focused visualizations of yourself changing can retrain your brain and make you think positively about your ability to let go of bad habits. Taking some time each day to envision your future self happily engaged in your behavior change can help make this new, positive behavior your default choice and ensure long-term success. This is also a good time to recognize what you gain by letting go of this habit.
Our inner monologues directly influence our actions and act as an important part of how we view ourselves. Making a behavior change while still holding on to doubtful, harmful, and negative self-talk is near impossible. Focusing on the fact that you’re not yet at your goal will only hold you back. Instead, say things like “I’m working on making myself better and healthier,” and the like. Your mind is powerful, so feed it what you need to succeed.
Some change is better than no change. So, if you’re having trouble going full force with your habit breaking, take baby steps. If an hour of exercise is just too daunting right now, start with a 10-minute walk and gradually work your way into longer, more aggressive exercise. Find a way to reinforce your new habit while you work your way into 100% commitment.
You didn’t form your habit overnight, so don’t expect to break it overnight. Understand that the process will take time, and work on loving yourself through it. The kinder you are to yourself, the more success you’ll have. It won’t be an easy process, but it will be worth it.
Setbacks should be anticipated. While you may be able to prepare for some, you aren’t a fortune teller and there are bound to be a few scenarios that catch you off guard because life happens. Changing a behavior is hard and it’s important to move forward from slip-ups with stride, without resorting to old, or even new, bad habits in the process.
While it may be daunting to think about breaking a bad habit, the effort is worth the reward and you’ll be happy you stuck to your plan.