Whether we realise it or not, we all have bad habits that ought to be broken. One individual’s bad habit might be binge-eating; another’s might be surfing the internet for hours on end. Some bad habits can merely be time-consuming, whereas others can be downright destructive!
Unfortunately, breaking a bad habit can be quite challenging, demanding a great deal of patience and self-discipline. It’s undoubtedly doable, though. In fact, there are quite a few scientifically proven ways to overcome bad habits and negative behaviours.
If you’re aware of a bad habit that’s reducing the quality of your life, you ought to stick around, as we’re about to shed light on the five most effective ways to break a bad habit.
1. Replace Your Bad Habits
The very first step to breaking a bad habit is understanding that bad habits aren’t quashed; they’re replaced with better, more productive habits! So, if you’re reading this guide or any other guide, for that matter, with the aim of quashing the bad habit that’s reducing the quality of your life, you’ll be disappointed.
You must also understand that bad habits serve a purpose or offer some sort of reward. For instance, if one person’s bad habit is smoking or doing drugs, the reward is biological, present in the form of the effect that smoking or doing drugs has on the body.
Furthermore, some behaviours are developed to cope with stress, such as foot-tapping, nail-biting, jaw clenching, and so forth. So, the benefit here is rather emotional.
We’re saying this to establish that in order for you to break a habit, you have to replace it with another practice that serves a similar purpose or provides a similar benefit.
So, if you tend to light up a cigarette every time you feel stressed, the best approach to break this bad habit isn’t to stop it cold turkey. Instead, it’s to replace it with a different habit that can help you cope with stress in a healthier manner. So, instead of smoking to cope with stress, start meditating or going to the gym. Don’t try to cut out your bad habit; replace it!
Breaking your bad habit starts with identifying the purpose/benefit of that habit, then attempting to replace it with a practice that has a similar purpose/benefit.
2. Identify What Triggers Your Bad Habit
Now that you understand that your bad habit is there for a reason, it’s time to identify the factors that trigger that habit. This process will require a lot of attentiveness and introspection from you.
To identify what triggers your bad habit, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Firstly, when and where does this bad habit or negative behaviour take place? Secondly, how does it make you feel?
Thirdly, does this bad habit take place after something else happens or as a response to something? And lastly, does this bad habit arise when you’re alone or around certain people?
Based on your answers to the questions mentioned above, you should be able to identify the different aspects that influence your bad habit or harmful behaviour.
Let’s assume your bad habit is staying up late. Upon paying enough attention to the circumstances surrounding your bad habit, you may come to realise that you only stay up late when there’s something interesting on TV or when you’re chopping it up with a special someone via chat.
Having made that analysis, you can begin to take action and eliminate the specific circumstances that trigger your bad habit. So, in case of watching TV, your action may be turning the TV off by 9 PM.
The bottom line is that for you to kick your bad habit to the curb, you have to identify the factors that trigger it and work on eliminating them.
3. Take It One Step at a Time
In your attempt to break your bad habits, you need to make peace with the fact that you’re going to slip up at some point. Whether you slip up once or a hundred times, it’s okay. Instead of focusing on your slip-ups, focus on your successes. If you were able to quit smoking for a few days in a row, view it as a success, not a slip-up.
Please remember that breaking an addiction or a bad habit is an incremental process. You can’t just stop your bad habit abruptly. Instead, you need to start small and take things slow. Also, avoid trying to eliminate multiple habits at once, especially if said habits aren’t correlated in any way. Instead, tackle one habit at a time.
If the habits you’re trying to give up go together, it may be beneficial to work on them simultaneously. For example, if you tend to smoke and drink together, it’s best to stop both habits at once, seeing as they both act as triggers to one another.
Once again, kicking a bad habit is incremental. So, instead of eradicating it, try to reduce the frequency at which you practice your bad habit. Instead of smoking a pack a day, cut it down to 15 cigarettes a day. From 15, go down to 10. Then, from 10, go down to 5 and so on.
4. Make Use of Pleasure/Pain Association
In his book, Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins states that all the actions we take in life are for one of two reasons: gaining pleasure or avoiding pain. To give you an example, we may go to work every day to avoid the pain of poverty. Conversely, we watch movies or read books for pleasure.
That being said, we can harness the power of pain/pleasure association to kick bad habits out the door. This method is a process that takes a bit of introspection and dedication, but it’s super effective!
To elaborate, what you need to do is associate pain with the consequences of your bad habit. Simultaneously, you want to associate pleasure with the benefits you’ll reap from overcoming your bad habit.
Going back to our previous example, if you’re a smoker, you can associate the habit of smoking with the pain of suffering from a severe disease. To make this association impactful, you can imagine how your loved ones would feel if they were to see you sick and suffering.
The pain you associate with your bad habit must revolve around something or someone that you care about a lot, like your loved ones in the above-mentioned scenario.
Capitalising on the same example, you can try associating pleasure instead of pain with not smoking by visualising the long life you’ll be living free of smoking-related diseases.
Please bear in mind that in order for this technique to provide notable results, the association of pain/pleasure needs to be as strong and detailed as possible.
5. Keep Yourself Busy as Much as Possible
If you haven’t noticed, bad habits tend to arise whenever you have a lot of free time on your hands. After all, the devil’s workshop is an idle mind.
To overcome your bad habit, you’ll have to keep yourself occupied as much as possible, even on your off days! We’re not saying you shouldn’t rest; we’re saying that you should respect your resting time. If you’re tired and in need of rest, get some sleep. Apart from that, keep yourself busy with something productive.
You don’t have to exert yourself physically to keep yourself busy. All you have to do is keep your mind occupied so that thoughts of indulging in your bad habit don’t take over. You’ll notice that it’s unlikely for your thoughts to go astray when you’re occupied.
Moreover, the options are limitless when it comes to what you should occupy yourself with. If you like physical activities, go to the gym, or do sports. If you aren’t into sports, read an interesting book, watch a TV show you like, invite a friend over, or treat yourself to a fancy dinner.
Kicking a bad habit is far from an easy task. It’s a trial-and-error process that requires a lot of patience, dedication, and self-discipline.
It’s also a process that requires encouragement and self-care. So, if you can enlist the help of a friend who struggles with the same habit you’re struggling with, do it. If the environment around you has something to do with your bad habit, change it.
If you slip up as you’re trying to break your bad habit, don’t sweat it. Instead, just pick up where you left off, and view every attempt as a success.
We hope that you find the information shared in this article insightful and helpful in your quest to kick your bad habit to the curb. Good luck, and may all your bad habits become a thing of the past!