How to Break Bad Habits in 3 Simple Steps. Habits are easy to pick up.
You do something once, it feels pretty good or serves a purpose, and so you do it again. And again. And, before you know it, you do it without thinking.
But, the same habit that was so easy to pick up can be harder than ever to stop. You try to quit and it doesn’t work, so you give up. And, then a little while later you try something else and that doesn’t work, so you give up then too. Eventually, you convince yourself that your habit is stronger than you are.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. You are stronger than your habit. And, if you follow these three simple steps, you’ll prove it in no time:
Step #1 – Figure Out What Purpose It Serves
Before you can successfully break your bad habit, you have to understand what purpose it serves for you. For example, if you’re a smoker, why do you smoke? Does it relax you? Is it a stress reliever or does it ease your anxiety? Does it help pass the time when you’re driving?
Or, if you’re an overeater, what purpose does that serve? Does it soothe you when you’re hurt or feeling down? Does it distract you when you’re lonely or you have to do something you’re not looking forward to doing? What purpose does it serve for you?
In addition to figuring out why your habit is so appealing, you also have to decode what triggers it. Are there certain emotions or situations that increase your habit? For instance, if you’re a nail biter, when are you most likely to bite your nails? Is it when you’re in an uncomfortable situation or when you’re bored?
Try to isolate your personal triggers and be as specific as you can. You have to understand why you do something before you can create a plan to change it.
Step #2 – Come up With Alternative, Positive Behaviors
Some people are able to stop a negative behavior cold turkey and have great success and, that’s wonderful. But, most people find just stopping extremely difficult, if not impossible. So, once you know why your behavior is so irresistible, you need to come up with alternative, positive behaviors that serve the same purpose. This will increase your likelihood of success.
For instance, let’s say your bad habit is eating popcorn every night while you watch television. And maybe you eat because it drives you nuts to just sit there when you’re watching your favorite shows. If you just stop doing it, you may feel restless because you’ve had a bowl in your hand every night for the last ten years and now it’s just gone.
But, if you replace the behavior, you’re less likely to feel that sense of loss. So, maybe you do something else with your hands, like paint your nails or cut out coupons. Or, perhaps you get on the floor and do some leg lifts, sit-ups or stretches. It satisfies the same need, doing something while watching television, but it’s a more positive behavior.
Step #3 – Log Your Progress
When you’re trying to change a long held behavior, it’s easy to feel like you’re beating your head against the wall. You’re extra aware of your habit and so it seems like you engage in the behavior more now than when you weren’t trying to change it.
That’s why it’s extremely important to log your progress. How? Keep track of every time you engage in the behavior you want to change. This does three things for you.
First, you can’t change something unless you’re aware of when you’re doing it, right? So, by logging every time you take that action, you’re drawing attention to it.
Second, if you keep track, you may find situations or emotions that you didn’t realize trigger your desire to do whatever your habit is. Because it is a habit and you do it without thought, you might now be aware of everything that prompts you to do it.
Third, quite often, when you engage in changing your behaviors, it’s easy to slip up a time or two and fall back to that bad habit because you think you’re not making any progress. However, if you keep a log of it, you can look back and see that you engage less and less as time goes on. Sometimes you have to pay more attention to the road you’ve already traveled than to the one that lies ahead of you.
Bonus Tip: Enlist Help
If you want to make sure that your habit is going to be gone for good, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of supportive family and friends. Ask them to encourage you as you try to make difficult changes. Let them be your rock when you want to just throw in the towel and revert back to your comfort of your old ways.
Sometimes we try to walk alone on our journeys because we feel like it’s weak to ask for help. However, it takes more strength to ask for help than it does not to. That’s why it’s so hard to do.
So set up a network of people that can help you through the process. Have someone that you can call when you feel like you’re going to break down. Have another person that you can get together with to distract you from your cravings. Have a third person that you find encouraging and motivating and a great mentor. The more people you have to help you, the easier the process will be.
Don’t let your habit control you. Show it that you’re stronger than it will ever be. Now that you know how, it’s time to do it.