Steps to Break the Bad Habit Cycle
When Charles Duhigg was writing his book, “The Power of Habit,” he went to the canteen every day to buy a chocolate chip cookie. It seemed harmless at first until his wife noticed he had gained weight. The culprit? Eating the cookie every day had become a habit.
That is the insidious nature of bad habits. They can seem harmless at first, especially in small amounts, but in the long run, the repercussions make themselves apparent. So if you catch yourself engaging in a habit that’s impacting you negatively, you know it’s time to do something about it.
Breaking habits, though, is not that easy, especially if you have had them for a long time. But it is not impossible, and that’s what’s important.
After all, you developed bad habits for particular reasons, so the way to start breaking them is by recognizing what triggers them, which is crucial. Think about the events that occur which compel you, or encourage you, to carry out your habit.
Are you in a specific place? What time of day? Who are you with? What are you feeling? Are there certain unconscious beliefs or reasons that drive you to commit the habits?
Once you have managed to identify the triggers, then avoiding them will make it much easier to break the habits. Habits become stronger with repetition; when they are not repeated, their oxygen supply is cut off. Cut out as many triggers as possible.
Mostly, your bad habits are greatly influenced by your environment, so that’s something you need to change as well. If you tend to smoke when you’re at a certain place, don’t go there. If being with certain friends influences you to engage in bad behavior, avoiding them is a healthy thing to do. Surround yourself with people who are living the way you want to.
By knowing the cues to your bad habits, you will be better able to figure out how to manipulate your environment to avoid or de-power the triggers. Here are some ideas on how you can begin transforming your life by breaking the bad habit cycle:
Make The Decision to Change – It’s Up To You
First off, you need to make the decision (and conviction) that you want to change your bad behaviors. Acknowledge that something needs to be changed, and identify specifically what habits you need to break.
Create a Written Plan and Follow It
Have a strategy in place for how you will change your bad habits. Putting your plan in writing is important. Firstly, it acts as a reminder before the trigger trips you into the bad habit again. Secondly, following pre-made steps creates the mindfulness that is essential to reprograming the habitual behaviors.
When your plan is in writing, you can easily check your progress and make sure you are not leaving anything out. Without a written plan, too often, you will recognize too late that you have yet again unconsciously succumbed to your habit, and all that is left is another round of remorse.
Change Your Bad Habits Into Good Ones
Your bad habits are attached to certain issues in your life, like stress and boredom. They provide you some short-term pleasure and benefits, which is why you keep doing them, despite knowing that you will likely regret them later.
When breaking a bad habit, it helps to find an alternative because you can’t just remove a habit, you have to replace it with a better one.
For example, if you binge eat when you’re stressed, find something else to do like doing a hobby you’ve always wanted to do. Or exercise. Do something to break the cycle that you can repeat every time the trigger occurs, so you form a new and better habitual response to it.
Believe in Yourself and Get Support If Necessary
Breaking a habit can become extra difficult, which is why asking for additional support from your friends or family will be helpful. Tell them that you are planning to quit a habit and ask them to check on your progress and hold you accountable. When you do it on your own, it is too easy to fall back when the going becomes tough.
When you have faith in yourself that you can break your bad habits, you are halfway there. Yes, it’s difficult, but it is not impossible. And if others can do it, why can’t you? However, you must also expect stumbling blocks along the way.
When bad habits have been reinforced in your life for a long time, it will certainly be difficult to get them out of your system. So understand that a relapse is normal, but that should not be a reason to give up.
There are other steps you can do to change your bad habits. Some will work for you; some will not. Find the ones that do, commit yourself to them, and you will succeed.