Reading Length: 9 minutes
Bad habits can give us a lot of suffering and it can be extremely difficult to break. It takes tremendous willpower and self-forgiveness. But bad habits can be avoided by knowing the process behind it and becoming more conscious of our surroundings. Some examples of bad habits are drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication.
According to a paper published by Duke University, more than 40 percent of actions performed by people were not decisions but out of habit. Research has also shown that people who have career momentum are 53% more likely to have good habits.
- 1) Lack of awareness or acceptance.
A person needs to realize the habit is bad for them by finding awareness and acceptance.
- 2) No motivation.
A person could be going through a lot and think the world is against them. This leads to a give-up attitude which is also a bad habit.
- 3) Underlying psychological conditions.
Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it hard to break bad habits. The fear of missing out (FOMO) may also cause people to obsessively check social media and the news.
- 4) Bad habits make us feel good.
Bad habits such as a overeating gives us comfort and pleasure. We want the pleasure even though we know it’s not good for us.
- 5) Upward comparisons.
Comparisons can stem from childhood experiences. But there will always be someone who is better. Research has shown that social media also reduces self esteem and increases social comparison.
- 6) Stress
When someone is under stress, it is easy for bad habits to form since they don’t have mental resources to fight it.
- 7) Sense of failure.
When cutting a bad habit, the lifestyle changes can be difficult which makes a person feel a sense of failure. When someone lets a bad habit slip, they can be harsh on themselves.
- 8) Force of habit.
Humans are creatures of habit and have daily triggers. For example, eating junk food while watching TV.
Here are 15 tips to breaking bad habits:
- 1) Identify your triggers.
Ask yourself the following questions: Where does the habitual behavior happen? What time of day? How do you feel when it happens? Are other people involved? Does it happen right after something else?
- 2) Focus on why you want to change.
Research from 2012 has shown that it’s easier to change when the change is beneficial or valuable to you. You can write your reasons down on a paper and place it somewhere you will see often such as on your fridge.
- 3) Get support from a friend.
Break a bad habit together with a friend. You both can support each other during the successes and setbacks.
- 4) Leave yourself reminders.
Use stickers, sticky notes or visual reminders where the habit occurs.
- 5) Visualize yourself breaking the habit.
Imagine yourself in a triggering environment or situation, visualize yourself deep breathing, walking, getting water, or anything else that calms you.
- 6) Practice self-care.
It can be hard to cut bad habits when you don’t care of your wellbeing. Get adequate amount of sleep, eat nutritious meals, be physically active, and make time for hobbies that help you relax.
- 7) Start with a single bad habit.
It’s better to do less and focus on one bad habit first rather than tackling everything at once. Give it one month to kill one bad habit and then move onto the next.
- 8) Don’t change you. Change your world.
Change your context in your environment that can serve as triggers for you to engage in a bad habit. Get the temptations away from you by implementing the “20 second rule.” This makes bad habits 20 seconds harder to start so you’re less likely to engage in it. For example, take out the batteries of the remote control to make it harder to watch TV. Or, delete social media apps to form the barrier of needing to download and use it.
- 9) Relax.
Stress makes you more likely to fall back on your bad habits. According to Alex Korb, a neuroscientist, stress weakens the prefrontal cortex which can’t pay attention for you when making a decision about a habit.
- 10) Implement “if” and “then.”
Use the “if-then” planning to achieve a goal. For example, turning surfing the internet whenever sitting on the couch to “if I sit on the couch, then I will pick up a book.”
- 11) Forgive yourself.
Studies have shown that self criticism is associated with less motivation and self-control. So forgive your setbacks and have more self-compassion.
- 12) Change language from “I can’t” to “I don’t.”
A study shown from Journal of Consumer Research, tested two groups who used the language ” I don’t” versus “I can’t.” The study showed that those who used “I don’t” provided greater psychological empowerment.
- 13) Have a plan for your triggers and urges.
Write down a document stating “Quit Plan.” Watch out and be aware for what triggers the bad habits. For example, you smoke when others smoke or you check social media when you need space in your day. Make a list of triggers on your “Quit Plan.” When you feel the urge to do a bad habit, delay yourself. Do things like call someone or take a walk. Once you delay, the urge will go away. Don’t trust your rationalizations.
- 14) Replace the bad habit.
Each bad habit meets some kind of need. Note down what needs it meets such as coping with stress on your “Quit Plan.” Afterwards, you can find a replacement habit for that. Forgive yourself if you mess up with the new habit. Just learn from the mistakes and keep improving your plan.
- 15) Quit gradually.
Cut back in small steps. You can try to do this once a week and encourages greater chance of success.
I used to be under a lot of stress from school and work so I would binge eat all the junk food I could grab in my sight. It was a vicious cycle of me eating chips while watching television after work. But I noticed what it was doing to my weight, health and mood. I created a plan by replacing all the junk in my kitchen with only healthy foods. I liked the crunchy feeling of chips so I replaced it with carrots. This also served as a barrier since I was lazy to go through the hassle of driving to the supermarket to buy junk food. I also started off small by eating junk food 3 times a week which turned to 2 times a week to once a week and finally none. But I felt so powerful to be able to change my language from “I can’t eat junk food” to “I don’t eat junk food.” Of course, there were times when the temptations came back but I knew self forgiveness was vital and consistency was key. It’s been almost a year since I’ve touched a bag of chips and I’ve never felt more energized, happier, and proud for this change.
What bad habits are you trying to cut off? How will you try to break it?
SUMMARY OF BLOGS:
- 10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult by Leon Ho
- How to Break a Habit (and Make It Stick) by Dr. Timothy J. Legg
- Bad Habits: How To End Them With 8 Secrets From Research
- Can’t Kick a Bad Habit? You’re Probably Doing It Wrong
- A Brief Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit by Leo Babauta