How to Break Bad Habits
Why is it so hard to break bad habits? Is it something you struggle with?
Ever feel like you’re stuck doing something you really don’t want to do? And no, I don’t mean cleaning the bathroom or some other not fun thing. I mean a bad habit. One that you don’t want to do but it’s just so hard to break.
Mine was eating a big unhealthy snack in the evening. A lot of the time it was a massive bowl of cereal loaded with sugar. I craved it every day. It was my “me” time. When I wanted to start eating healthier, I knew I had to kick that habit. I declared that I was no longer going to have my super size bowl of Frosted Flakes and it was gonna be so easy. Like, why didn’t I do this sooner?
I would make it a day. Maybe two. When that second day rolled around I would tell myself, “Just once more, it’ll be fine. You can start again tomorrow.”
Oh, the lies I would tell myself. Tomorrow became the next day, and the next day.
Does this sound familiar to you? It’s a vicious cycle.
But guess what? You CAN overcome and break bad habits too.
What causes us to form bad habits?
Let’s use my example again.
- Want to relax after a long day. Think about watching Netflix, and gotta have a snack to go with it.
- Find something to watch and pour that bowl of cereal.
- “My neck, my back, my Netflix and my snacks”.
Obviously, I enjoyed step 3 so much I decided to do it again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. And a bad habit was formed. Many bad habits are formed through stress and boredom. My cause? Mostly boredom.
Habits are looping. We have an urge, or cue to do the action, the routine we do to complete the action, and the reward we receive from the habit.
If you’ve had a rough day at work and are stressed out you might want to grab a pint of ice cream, because ice cream makes you feel better. If it’s a Saturday night you’re alone, and all you’ve got is a bag of chips and Lifetime movies, what are you likely to do? Binge watch and binge eat?
These scenarios happen once, no big deal right? But if they happen again and again, boom.. bad habit.
You see how easy it is to form habits?
But how do I break bad habits?
There are just two steps needed to eliminate a bad habit. they are very simple but they’re not always very easy. What are they? Acknowledge and replace.
When you acknowledge and replace a bad habit, it will become a thing of the past, never to return again, unless you allow it to.
You know it’s there. Ignoring a bad habit will do nothing to help you. You have to identify it and have the will to make a change.
Start a journal.
Write down your habit. Pay attention to when you’re acting on this habit. Is it during the evening? On the weekend or when you’re alone? Why do you think you keep repeating this habit? Are you bored or stressed out? What is exactly leading up to this action? Write everything down that you do in the moments before you receive your cue to complete this habit.
Writing everything down will open your eyes and help you understand why you have this habit and what steps you can take to help eliminate it.
For reference, let’s take a look at mine.
- Habit eating an unhealthy snack daily.
- When in the evening.
- After I put my son into bed.
- I’m alone.
- Usually watching Netflix.
- It helps me unwind and relax.
- I found enjoyment in it so it became a habit.
Why do you want to stop?
Because I know it’s not healthy to eat all of that sugar on a daily basis.
Write everything down. Every detail you can think of and why you want to kick this habit to the curb.
Whenever you feel a craving or urge coming on, go to your journal and write it down. Write how you’re feeling and what you’re doing.
Writing everything down can help you realize why you want.
Once you are aware of this habit, you can create a strategy to get rid of it for good. You replace the bad habit with a more positive one.
Once you identify and acknowledge your bad habit and are aware of the triggers it is time to replace that habit with a good habit.
Try to eliminate as many triggers as possible. Are you performing the habit out of boredom? Pick up a new hobby to occupy your time and mind.
What is something you enjoy doing? Or something you think you might enjoy?
I’ve always been interested in cross-stitching. It’s the old lady in me. It’s something that keeps my hands busy and I don’t want to eat an unhealthy snack.
Try something to keep yourself occupied and your mind away from your unhealthy habit.
What about stress? There are many ways to relieve your stress in a positive way, such as..
- Listen to music
- Have a spa day
- Spend time with friends and family
..anything that’s good for your body and mind. Need some more inspiration? How about 100 Ways to Improve Your Life?
When you begin to replace your old habit with a new one, is it going to magically stick right away? Probably not. But you should keep at it.
It can take up to 21 days for a new habit to stick. Just 21 days!
If after 21 days and you still can’t perform your new good habit without hating every second of it, then replace that one too.
You should be happy and enjoy doing whatever you’re doing. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then get rid of it! But remember, you can make healthy living enjoyable. You just have to experiment and find what works for your and your lifestyle.
It’s time to break bad habits that have been nagging at you. It’s frustrating and makes you feel like you’ll never achieve your goals. Lose the negative mindset and you’ll realize you can reach any goal you set for yourself.