Breaking bad habits can be tough. Whether it’s giving up sweets, quitting smoking, late night snacking or constantly checking your phone. Here are 10 tips and tactics for how to change a bad habit.
1. Write down your “why”
You want to break your bad habit for a reason don’t you? Summarize your “why” and write it down. Put it on a sticky note on your computer or bathroom mirror. Hang it on the wall in your bedroom. Take a screen shot of it for your phone wallpaper. The physical presence of your written down “why” should serve as a constant reminder to yourself in moments of weakness.
2. Frame it with positivity
Usually, when we decide to break a habit, we put our goals in a negative frame. We say we’re going to stop drinking, quit smoking, or put an end to late-night junk food. Instead of this, try to frame your change as working towards a positive goal (I will start eating healthy). We’re more likely to achieve a goal that involves reaching a desired outcome (eating healthy) than eliminating an undesired outcome (eating junk food).
3. Track it
You might be itching to ditch your bad habit right now, but spending some time tracking your habit can lay the groundwork for breaking it. Take a week and record each time you catch yourself doing your bad habit. This awareness will help you understand why and when you perform the habit and make you better prepared to conquer it. You can use an online habit tracker or manual journal (my preferred method).
4. Identify your triggers
Habits are loops that we repeat automatically, usually without thinking about it. They are triggered by cues such as time, location, events and emotional state. Examples of these are:
- Checking your phone in bed (waking up is the trigger)
- Ordering a donut at the coffee shop (location is the trigger)
- Drinking too much at parties (the social event is the trigger)
- Online shopping when bored (the state of boredom is the trigger)
5. Avoid your triggers
Identifying your triggers is powerful knowledge you can gain for breaking bad habits. Once you realize what starts the bad habit, you can work on changing it or avoiding the trigger altogether.
- If the trigger is a physical location or event, avoid that location or event.
- If you are a late night snacker, get the snacks out of the house.
- Remove your phone from your bedroom so you don’t check it in the morning.
- Avoid the computer when you are bored. Find something else to occupy your time.
Take extreme measures to protect yourself from these habit cues to help yourself to prevent a bad habit relapse.
6. Replace the bad with the good
Breaking bad habits isn’t always about stopping but substituting. If you can’t avoid a habit trigger, try replacing your bad habit with a good habit.
- Instead snacking when you’re stressed, try meditation or breathing exercises.
- Start an exercise routine before or after work in place of checking social media.
- Opt for a black coffee (or coffee with unsweetened creamer) instead of a sugary coffee.
7. Go slow and start small
Don’t try to change all of your bad habits at once. Pick one habit to work on and focus on it completely. Break your changes down into small steps and build on those. For example, if your goal is to quit eating sugar, you might start just by removing sugar from your morning coffee. After you’ve adjusted to that, move on to removing it from other areas of your diet.
8. Tell your friends
Sharing your goals with others can be powerful motivation when breaking bad habits. Once we make a public commitment to others, we tend to feel obligated to follow through with it, due to our fundamental drive to feel that we’re consistent to our word and beliefs.
Another option is to enlist someone to be your accountability partner. Having a friend going through the struggle of changing a habit with you and holding you accountable for your actions is strong motivation to push through the hard times.
9. Prepare for setbacks
Speaking of hard times, you should prepare for setbacks and roadblocks along the way. Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, and you shouldn’t expect to be perfect. Instead, have a plan to get back on track if you fall back into your old habit. Use the setback as a way to understand what happened and how you can avoid it next time.
10. Support and reward yourself
What is your payoff for changing or eliminating your bad habit? Is it tied to your “why”? It helps to reward yourself for progress along the way, and it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Take a moment to acknowledge yourself for ignoring the urge to snack after dinner. Use some of the money you are saving on lattes to buy a new outfit. Ask your friends or family for feedback on how you’ve changed. Just take a little time to step back and acknowledge that you are making progress and are on the right path.
What habits are you working on?
So tell us, are you working on breaking a bad habit and/or replacing it with a new, healthier habit? Share your experience in the comments below, we’d love to hear about it! Use the tactics above to help you achieve your goals and live better. And if you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, make sure to share it!
You can even tag us in your progress posts on Instagram @realsimplegood and #TheRSGLife, so we can help cheer you on! Make sure to give us a follow if you don’t already – let’s stay connected!
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