How to break your self-sabotaging bad habits and create the success you deserve?
We all have some bad habits that we want to eliminate. Eliminating bad habits is hard because they are part of our lives. Even if we know that they are bad for our life we still practice them.
But there are some things to know that will help you to get rid of a bad habit and replace it with a new better one.
Here we will talk about bad habits divided into three sections. If you want to break a bad habit, you must know:
- How bad habits are developed
- You can’t eliminate, you can just replace a habit
- The best ways to break bad habits
Let’s start step by step because without knowing the cause we can’t eliminate or replace a bad habit with a new good one.
How do bad habits develop?
If you wonder what causes bad habits, the answer is two main things: stress and boredom.
Bad habits are just a simple way of dealing with boredom and stress. Just think about when you bite your nails or having a smoke, you do that often but most of the time in stressful situations. Or you have nothing to do so you waste your time on social media or going out for a drink. It is all about stress, anxiety, and boredom.
It is not so simple to deal with stress today, and maybe that is the reason why it is so hard to change a bad habit. Sometimes the stress on the surface is caused by deeper issues, and if you want to change something in your life you must be honest with yourself.
You should ask yourself some questions and find the answers by yourself. What are those beliefs and thoughts that are behind the bad habits? Is there something deeper, a belief, or fear that is holding you to get rid of such a bad habit?
As you will see down in the article recognizing the cause of your bad habits is the key to overcome them.
How habits are formed
Every habit starts with a psychological form called “habit loop” which is a three-step process.
- First, there is a trigger that tells your brain to go in an automatic mode and let the behavior unfold.
- Second, there is a routine which is the behavior itself.
- Third, that is the reward, something that your brain likes that helps it to remember the “habit loop” in the future.
You can’t eliminate it, you can just replace a bad habit with a good one
It is difficult to say “I will not doing this anymore” or to eliminate a bad habit because it provides some benefit for you and you can’t give up on that. For example, you wake up and open your email or see the news. You do that because you want to be connected or informed.
And you think that this is a benefit for you. But at the same time, it is a bad habit and ruins your productivity, overwhelms you with stress, and divides your attention. But you are still doing that every single morning because it prevents you from feeling like you are “missing out on something.“
You need to replace one bad habit with a new one that benefits you. As we mentioned the biggest cause of bad habits is stress. If you smoke when you get stressed, it is a bad plan to quit smoking. You need to find better ways to deal with stress instead of smoking and insert that new behavior and used it when you are stressed.
If we simplify this, we conclude that bad habits address certain needs in your life. That is the reason that you need to replace the bad habit with a new behavior that addresses the same need.
It is harder to just cut out bad habits without replacing them with a new one, then you will have certain needs that will be unfulfilled and it is going to be hard to stick to the routine of “not doing that thing” for a long time.
Best ways to get rid of bad habits
Be aware of your triggers
Once when you become aware of what triggers those bad habits it is easier to deal with them. Let’s say that when you look at the fridge when you are back home you instantly think to drink a beer, or when you are anxious you smoke, reaching for junk food when you are sad or lonely.
These are just small examples of emotional triggers that are making your bad habit live and active. By identifying your triggers you have a chance of pushing back and not having the autopilot kick in.
What to do to break this pattern?
Next time when you come to the point of doing the bad habit, take a step back, stop, and be aware of the sensations of the trigger in your body.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Where were you when the urge showed up?
- At what time of the day this happened?
- What is your emotional state?
- Who are you with?
- What happened before you felt this way?
If we want to break the patterns we must proactively work on the triggers. It is not so easy to do that. But start with something.
If we go back to the examples above, get the junk food or the beer out of the house, when you are sad or lonely try some breath work to calm down before reaching for food or smoke.
Another thing that you can do is to start writing things down. Keep a journal and notice on which days or periods of the day things happen that are triggering the bad habit. By doing this you will be aware of the situation and next time you will know that it is just a habit, not something that you need.
Use an “if-then” strategy
Petter M. Gollwitzer introduced this idea to the public in his research named Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plan in July 1999. According to his research, people who use the “if-then” strategy can double the odds of reaching their goals.
Using an “if-then” plan of action can help you to permanently stick to a new good habit, and this strategy requires you to be specific on where and when you will take a given action.
Here are the steps of your “if-then” plan:
- Identify what usually triggers your bad habit. For example, a friend offers you a beer.
- Define a different response to the trigger. For example, ask for a soda or other beverage, instead of alcohol. This should be a good habit that should replace the bad one and prevent you from falling into temptation.
- Combine steps 1 and 2 at “if-then” format: ” If after work my friend invites me to drink a beer, then I will answer: I prefer soda instead of a beer.”
This seems too simple but you will be surprised after some time of using an “if-then” format. This plan makes it easier to replace a bad habit with a good one, because of the prepared automatic response. It can be so effective for breaking bad habits.
Replace it with a good habit
Breaking bad habits is not something that you can do and be convinced that you will never get back to them. The best way is to replace them with good habits.
If something that you are doing now is bad for your body you surely want to stop doing that. Like drinking alcohol or smoking. You will want to replace that habit with a new one that will nourish your body. Instead of drinking alcohol try drinking some tea or refreshing juice.
That is a simple example of switching from a bad to a good habit. This is the quickest way that you can trick your mind by finding a new habit that will replace the old one.
Bad habits are part of you. They are your relieving mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, or low self-esteem. You can’t imagine how you will deal with your problems without these habits.
Instead of doing this focus on new activities that contribute positivity to your life. You can’t just say I am not doing this or that in my life anymore. It is a pattern written in your brain and you can’t delete that path, you can just overwrite it with a new good one.
Test your patience
For example, if you have a habit of eating too much chocolate and that not fits with your weight loss plan, try this.
Put that chocolate where you can’t reach it and just observe it. Ask yourself, do you really want to eat that or it is just a trigger or a habit. No matter what you feel, leave that chocolate and don’t eat it. Build your self-control.
By practicing this you will notice that your impulse to eat right now will slowly disappear. But you need to be persistent, and it takes time to boost your self-control.
Once you get stronger you might even have one piece of the chocolate and then put it back so that you still have it but you will be able to control yourself and not eating the whole bar at once.
Break the habit slowly every day
When you pick a bad habit that you want (need) to break there are some rules that you need to follow to slowly remove and replace with other good habits.
You should aim for something small that you can achieve every day. If you are trying to get in shape again and get rid of the habit of sitting and watching series all day, set a small target at the beginning.
You can’t just go to the gym and spend 2 hours there. Start at your home with home exercises for 10-20 minutes per day. After a while increase for 40-50 minutes.
This way of making changes is for all other habits. Make a plan that should include a calendar in it. Track down how you did every day. Make sure you journal everything, from numbers to feelings.
Remember, you need to replace the bad habit with a new good one. By having a plan and all written down it is easier to accomplish that.
Get ready for discomfort
The process of getting rid of bad habits (start with one not with all of them) is going to be very uncomfortable. You can’t just wake up one morning and say “habit is gone.” You’ve been living with that habit a long time and it is not going away just like that.
If you start with the process of breaking the bad habits it is not going to be a one-day task. It will last for a longer period and you should be prepared for a longer discomfort period. It is going to take you a month to distance yourself from that habit.
This is the period where anxiety and stress come on the scene. You should be aware and prepared for that if you want to succeed.
But the best thing about this is that every passing day, survived through anxiety and stress you are distancing more and more from that habit that you want to get rid of. It is going to take time, commitment and it is going to take perseverance. It is not going to happen overnight.
Think differently about your bad habits
Things like smoking or biting our nails are some of the most common bad habits that we know. They are bad but we are still doing them. The reason for this is that they provide us with some sort of satisfaction or psychological reward.
Try to re-write your thoughts, if you train yourself to think differently about your actions you may find cutting out your bad habits easier than it sounds.
If you are a smoker you can’t quit if you keep saying “Just this one and I am done” or “I will stop smoking from Monday”, but if you change your thoughts and think how bad is the smell from cigarettes for you and your surrounding. Or that they are the reason for your bad breath and stinky clothes, you have a big chance of quitting them.
This formula of re-writing thoughts is not just for smoking you can apply it to break every bad habit. it is all about your goals. Do you want to get rid of the bad habit and achieve your goals or not? That is the question that will change the way you think.
Final thoughts on how to break bad habits
Breaking a bad habit is not an easy process. As you can see from the written above it requires discipline and commitment. But like everything in life if you want to succeed you must first start from somewhere.
That place in this case is our brain. If you decide that you want to break a bad habit that is crucial for success. Strong will and discipline are the keys. By following these simple ways to get rid of bad habits you can say goodbye to everything bad that you’ve been doing for yourself till now.
By replacing bad habits with new good ones you are doing good not just for your body but for your mind too.
Start with small things that you think need to be changed and then go for the bigger ones. It is not going to be easy, but in the end, you will succeed and be happy that you’ve done that.