How to break bad habits and replace them with good ones
For many persons, bad habits interrupt their lives and prevent them from accomplishing their goals. They jeopardize their health, both mentally and physically. Generally, they contribute to a waste of time and energy.
What causes bad habits?
Most of your bad habits are caused by two things…Stress and boredom.
We have all heard the old idiom, ‘the devil finds work for idle hands to do;’ most of the time, we develop bad habits when we are not productively engaged and simply looking for a way of dealing with stress and boredom. Everything, from biting nails to overspending on a shopping spree, to drinking every weekend, to wasting time on the internet, can be a simple response to stress and boredom.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can teach ourselves new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom, which can then be substituted in place of the bad habits. Of course, sometimes the stress or boredom that is on the surface is actually caused by deeper issues. These issues can be tough to think about, but if we are serious about making changes then we have to be honest with ourselves.
Are there certain beliefs or reasons that are behind the bad habits? Is there something deeper — a fear, an event, or a limiting belief — that is causing you to hold on to something that is bad for you? Recognizing the causes of your bad habits is crucial to overcoming them.
How to break a bad habit
Here are some ideas for breaking bad habits:
Choose a substitute for your bad habit. You need to have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit. What are you going to do when you get the urge to smoke? (Example: breathing exercises instead.) What are you going to do when Facebook is calling to you to procrastinate? (Example: write one sentence for work.) Whatever it is and whatever you’re dealing with, you need to have a plan for what you will do instead of your bad habit.
Cut out as many triggers as possible. If you smoke when you drink, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat cookies when they are in the house, then throw them all away. If the first thing you do when you sit on the couch is pick up the TV remote, then hide the remote in a closet in a different room. Make it easier on yourself to break bad habits by avoiding the things that cause them.
If your environment makes your bad habit easier and good habits harder, change your environment and you can change the outcome.
Join forces with somebody. How often do you try to diet in private? Or maybe you “quit smoking” … but you kept it to yourself? (Just to prevent persons from seeing you fail, right?) The better approach is to pair up with someone and quit the bad habits together. The two of you can hold each other accountable and celebrate your victories together. Knowing that someone else expects you to be better is a powerful motivator.
Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live. You don’t need to disconnect from your old friends, but don’t underestimate the power of finding some new ones. Be open to new friendships.
Visualize yourself succeeding. See yourself throwing away the cigarettes or buying healthy food or waking up early. Whatever the bad habit is that you are looking to break, visualize yourself crushing it, smiling, and enjoying your success. See yourself building a new identity.
You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you void of the bad habits. So often we think that to break bad habits, we need to become an entirely new person. The truth is that you already have it in you to be someone without your bad habits. In fact, it’s very unlikely that you had these bad habits all of your life. You don’t need to quit smoking, you just need to return to being a non–smoker. You don’t need to transform into a healthy person, you just need to return to being healthy. Even if it was years ago, you have already lived without this bad habit, which means you can most definitely do it again.
Use the word “but” to overcome negative self–talk. One thing about battling bad habits is that it’s easy to judge yourself for not acting better. Every time you slip up or make a mistake, it’s easy to tell yourself how much you are a failure.
Whenever that happens, finish the sentence with “but”…
- “I’m fat and out of shape, but I could be in shape a few months from now.”
- “I’m stupid and nobody respects me, but I’m working to develop a valuable skill.”
- “I’m a failure, but everybody fails sometimes.”
Plan for failure. Remember we all slip up every now and then. Begin your journey of self purge today; it is never too late to begin.