We all have them, whether we think about them or not. Bad habits are almost always formed unconsciously and when formed can easily be triggered by even the smallest of cues. Breaking bad habits is a challenge, trust me, I’ve battled with quite a few throughout my life. It is far from impossible however, and I want to help you get started on the right track with some helpful tips and tactics that you can use, things that have worked for me in the past and continue to do so!
First of all, what is a bad habit? The answer might vary from person to person. In my opinion a bad habit is a behavior that has a negative impact on your life. Smoking for example, the number one bad habit people seek help for. It has a very negative impact on both your health and usually our social life too. It’s becoming more and more frowned upon to smell like a discarded cigarette butt when around others. Smoking was actually the first major habit that I quit successfully, something that put me on a path of continual self improvement. This is usually how it goes, once you realize that you ARE able to change and improve yourself, it becomes a rush to do so.
Starting out with breaking bad habits
So, where do you start? That’s a question that hinders a lot of people. Knowing where or how to start is key to breaking bad habits. The first step should always be to realize what your bad habits are. I mean, how can you work towards a goal if you don’t know what it is when you begin? Take a piece of paper, sit down in a calm and quiet environment and start writing. Write down every habit that you consider to be bad. Next to each bad habit, write down the negative effects it has on your life. This might take a while, it certainly did for me.
Once you have them all written down, order them from largest to smallest negative impact. This gives you a starting point. Your next step is to prioritize them. Which bad habit do you want to improve first? Put a number next to each one, starting 1, then 2 and so on. Done it? Good, now this becomes your roadmap to a better self. But, don’t get ahead of yourself and try to change everything all at once. This will only dilute your willpower and make breaking bad habits harder than it needs to be.
Tackle one goal at a time
It is very easy to look at your list and start implementing random changes all at once, but this is rarely helpful. Breaking bad habits several at a time drastically decreases your chances of success. Pick one and dive into it wholeheartedly. For me, the first was smoking. I took a blank piece of paper and started to break it down. Why do I not want to smoke any longer? Make a list of reasons to change. Reason that you yourself agree with, not reasons that other people give you. The motivation and reason for change must come from within, otherwise it will never stick.
After you have a list of reasons, start analyzing any triggers for the behavior. Also known as cues, they are events that unconsciously make you perform the habit. Knowing the cues is essential to changing your behavior. We humans are habitual creatures and 95% of the activities we perform daily are mindless habits. Actions like walking and chewing our food. These actions are learned from a very young age, and become habits. This is how our brains work, in order for us to consciously focus on activities that require more mental energy. This is why it is so easy to form bad habits as well. We are biologically wired to take repetitive tasks and turn them into unconscious habits.
21 days of habits
When researching ways to form new habits, this is one thing that has stuck out to me pretty much everywhere I look. Wherever you look, studies usually point to the fact that it takes around 21 days, or a month if you want to round it upwards, to form a new habit. This means convincing yourself to consciously perform whatever action you want to turn into an habit, each day, for 21 days until it becomes a habit. Some things go quicker, some take longer, but a good number to aim for is 21 days, or just simply, a month.
21 days might seem like an impossible task for many, and it was for me at first as well, until I figured out the solution. The solution for this is to break it down, a technique also known as chunking. It simply means you set smaller, more achievable goals for yourself. If you want to quit smoking, the first goal could be one hour. An hour passed and you didn’t have a cigarette? Well done, you made your first goal! Next up, 3 hours, then 1 day, then 3 days, so on and so forth. Allow yourself to feel accomplished even if it’s only your first tiny goal. It is after all that first step that is the hardest to make.
More in depth
If you want to dive deeper into the subject of breaking bad habits, I have written a book specifically on this, where I go more in-depth and give you a detailed step-by-step guide into how to keep track of your progress, how to motivate yourself to stay strong as well as how to let this positive change affect other parts of your life as well. Check it out right here!
Looking for a few examples of good habits you can develop instead? Have a look at my post about top 5 morning habits! I hope this will be able to help you get on the right track as much as it helped me. Also if you want to discuss anything related to self improvement, habits and so on, don’t be a stranger – leave a comment down below!
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