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Some of us are more disciplined than others. Some of us grew up with better examples than other people. For these reasons and many others, we develop bad habits. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you were raised or your personality type. We all have free will to make our own choices. Bad habits have some benefit, or we wouldn’t do what’s bad for us. Unhealthy food is sometimes delicious, and it is filling and comforting. You may have started smoking cigarettes because someone you admire does it, then you continue not only because it’s addictive, but because it relieves stress. You may crack your knuckles or bite your nails because it helps you focus when you are stressed. There are bad habits we acquire for comfort, stress relief, or other ‘benefits’ that can be replaced with habits that are good for us. Here, I will share some ways to stop bad habits.
Recognize the cause of your bad habit.
Moving forward, it will be helpful to know why you have formed your bad habit. be aware of your ‘why’. You may sleep in late because you have the option to press snooze on your alarm. Or maybe it’s because you sleep with your alarm right beside you. You may eat an unhealthy lunch every day because you work across from a fast food restaurant and it’s convenient. Recognizing the reason behind your bad habit will help you move forward.
Replace your bad habit with a good one / choose a substitute for it.
I stated that your bad habit has a benefit. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to do it. Know what that benefit is and find out what healthy habit you can incorporate into your life that will replace the unhealthy action with a healthy option and you get the same benefit. For example, sleeping in late is comforting and you enjoy the extra rest. To replace sleeping in late, set aside quiet time during the day when you cuddle up with a good book and a blanket for a half hour and read.
Get rid of triggers.
There can be one trigger that supports your bad habit, or there could be several. Note what those are and eliminate them to the best of your ability. Let’s stick with sleeping in late. Say you sleep with your alarm beside your bed and you have a snooze button. You can mindlessly reach over (still half asleep) and hit snooze or dismiss. Or maybe your bedroom is too dark. This is optimal for good sleep, but will also enforce sleeping in in the morning. Get an alarm with a light on it that gradually brightens when it goes off. Also, you can choose a different alarm sound that is more motivating than a blaring alarm that is the last thing you want to hear upon waking.
Get a support partner.
Whatever bad habit you are trying to break, tell someone close to you who you know will be supportive. Maybe even someone who needs to break a bad habit themselves. Having a support partner will be extra reinforcement for you to break that bad habit. Accountability will help motivate you to stick with a new good habit and not go back into your old, unhealthy ways.
Surround yourself with people who will reinforce new, good habits.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Being surrounded by people who are doing the same unhealthy things you are doing is a reinforcement to keep those bad habits. It will take sacrifice, but you may need to cut some people out of your life (or just spend less time with them). It may be impossible to do this. Maybe those people are your parents, brother or sister, or others who you live with currently. Join a support group or go to a place where you know people will be who will support your new lifestyle.
Begin with awareness.
It may seem daunting or overwhelming to begin, but get excited about the new you! Even if it is a small habit you are replacing, you are moving forward. Be aware of when your bad habit happens. How does it make you feel? Who are you around when you indulge in this bad habit? What are some things that trigger you? You may want to keep a journal to track these things, as well as how you are progressing with your new, good habit.
Don’t beat yourself up when you fall back into your old ways a time or two. This is natural. Focus and move forward. Don’t give up on yourself!