How To Break Unhealthy Habits

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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!

This article is adapted from James Clear’s website.

If you are looking for further reading on stopping bad habits and creating good ones, I highly recommend James  Clear’s book Atomic Habits. You can purchase it here on Amazon.




  1. Cindy

    This is really helpful!

    • Amy Irvin

      Good! Thank you for commentiing.

  2. Linda Winans Egeler

    I totally agree that it can be so important to find a support partner. It sure helps to have someone to encourage you and to vent with!

    • Amy Irvin

      Yes! We were made for community

  3. Alexis Farmer

    This is all so true! I definitely have some bad habits that need broken, but half the reason they’re around is who I surround myself with. Definitely some food for thought.

    • Amy Irvin

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Alicia

    I find opening up to someone close to me and have them hold me accountable is a great way to help break habits. Great post!

    • Amy Irvin


  5. Debbie

    Wow such good advice!!

    • Amy Irvin

      Thank you.

  6. Sandi Barrett

    I love this book, chipping away at an unwanted habit one little piece at a time. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amy Irvin

      Yes, it was a great book.

  7. Tiffany

    Knowing your triggers is so important to fixing bad habits…I totally agree

    • Amy Irvin


  8. Suzan

    Best advice: replacing the old habit with a new one. Works wonders!

    • Amy Irvin

      Yes! We gotta have something new and positive to fill in the gap.

  9. Barbara

    Excellent read! Yes, I agree with how we are each socialized determines our adult choices!

    • Amy Irvin

      Good parenting is so helpful for lifelong social health.

  10. Sabrina+DeWalt

    Good tips on replacing “bad” habits, although I think bad is a relative term for each individual to determine. What is a bad habit for one, might be just fine for another.

    • Amy Irvin

      Well, you may be right. We should be honest and aware.

  11. Suz |

    My biggest bad habit is playing stupid games on my phone- it wastes tons of time that I could be using elsewhere!

    • Amy Irvin

      Great that you are aware!

  12. Marianne

    Such great advice! I’m trying to get rid of some triggers right now!

    • Amy Irvin

      Thanks for commenting!

  13. Melissa Jones

    Great tips!

    • Amy Irvin

      Thank ya!

  14. Alice

    Getting a buddy to help break a bad habit is a good idea. Thanks

    • Amy Irvin


  15. Cindy Moore

    Excellent suggestions for breaking those bad habits. They do tend to hold us back from growing.

    • Amy Irvin

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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