We all have habits we would like to break. Smoking, drinking, biting fingernails, eating late, dating the wrong people, and lots of other habits that may need to be broken. You can stop the smallest or biggest bad habit you have with a little hard work. Here are some strategies to help you break bad habits.
What Are You Getting Out of the Habit?
First, think about what you are getting out of the habit. We do very few things without getting something in return. You need to think about what the habit is doing for you. Sure, smoking may be doing more to you than for you, but you are getting some pleasure out of the habit. The same goes for drinking and even biting your nails. If the answer to this is that you feel more relaxed or at ease, you may also need to examine what the stressors are in your life. What is contributing to the habit?
What Are Some Alternatives?
If you smoke, drink, chew your nails, tap your fingers, cuss, or do anything you feel is bad because you are stressed out or anxious, can you do something to change it? Speaking to a counselor, taking up exercise or yoga, and being creative can also help you replace the habits you wish to break. When you feel some relief from the habit, it will be harder to break, so you will need to find something that can be done to replace that relief. Healthy habits typically do not need to be broken as long as they are not excessive.
Give Yourself a Break
Before you beat yourself up for making a mistake, be lenient with yourself. You might make mistakes and revert to old habits, but if you are continuously working to break the habit, you will just begin again from where you are. For example, if you are trying to eat healthier foods, you might eat cake or chips when you hadn’t planned to do so. The next choice you make should be a healthy one, but do not make yourself feel bad for the one bad choice. Often, when people do this, they will give up and go back to old behaviors. Do not do this. Let mistakes go. If you are making more mistakes than healthy choices, you may need to reevaluate your plan.
Set a Plan of Action
You cannot simply break a habit because you want to break it. You need to have a plan in place. What will you do when things are difficult? Do you have an accountability partner? Do you need medications, medical treatments, or counseling services to stop the habits? You may need to consult with a professional to assist you in creating an action plan.
If certain situations trigger an increase in your bad habits, get rid of those situations. Move the television out of the bedroom if you are trying to get more sleep or stop leaving the television on all night. Clean your house or apartment to get rid of alcohol or clean the nicotine and smoke out of the furniture or clothing. Take a different route to work if you always stop at the same store for a soda and chips after work. Whatever you need to do to reduce or get rid of the triggers must be considered.
You will not break bad habits in one day. Take your time and consider what the habit does for you and how to overcome it. You can also work with others for support. If you cannot do this alone—it’s okay. Everyone needs support. Take your changes one step at a time.