Everyone has bad habits. Unfortunately, this is one reality of life that you can’t change. Bad habits can make you mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. They can destroy all the hard work you put into your goals. And they can markedly decrease the quality of your life. Which is why you need to learn how to break your bad habits, so you can start cleaning house in your own life.
What Causes Bad Habits?
Breaking bad habits isn’t easy because they exist for a reason. This all boils down to the fact that your brain is incredibly busy. At any moment, it’s doing numerous things with limited energy. So to save energy, and to save you having to think about things, your brain creates habits. They’re quicker, easier and take less energy.
However, there is another mechanism at play here and that’s why you create bad habits. Because of course your brain doesn’t just indulge in certain behaviors on its own. It only sets in stone things that you do all the time. There are two main reasons why you get into bad habits, and that’s stress and boredom. You get stressed at work so you eat. You’re bored on the weekend, so you always watch hours of television. And you have a fight with your friend, so you buy something expensive that you don’t need.
It’s actually more complicated than this of course. You might have an easy job but still come home and eat. The stress that causes this bad habit may not come from your daily routine, but from negative thoughts and memories. It’s important that you work out what’s causing your negative emotions and driving your bad habits. But it’s even more important that you learn to move away from them and establish habits that support you rather than undermine you.
How to Replace Bad Habits, Not Just Eliminate Them
Breaking a bad habit is difficult because of the way your brain functions. It’s also difficult because you’re getting something from it. You might hate the fact that you overeat, feel horrible afterwards and again when you realize you’ve put on weight, but you’re still getting something you want or need from the behavior.
This is often the most difficult pill to swallow. People don’t want to admit that they’re choosing to do things that hurt them. It’s easier to believe that you’re the victim of your brain, of circumstances, of the bad habit. But the truth is that you won’t be able to change your bad habits if you keep thinking that way. It’s only by taking responsibility for what you’re doing that you can start making changes.
And the easiest way to start doing that is to replace the bad habit with a good one that gives you the same reward. Each habit consists of three parts, the trigger or what prompts you to do the habit, the habit itself, and the reward. So if you’re in the habit of having a few drinks after dinner, sitting down in front of the television is probably the trigger that reminds you to go and get a beer. And the pleasant feeling that alcohol causes plus the reduction in your stress levels is the reward you get from the habit.
By replacing the habit, you’re leaving two parts of the cycle in place. This is much easier than trying to fight against yourself and change everything. So instead of trying to change everything, find another activity that lowers your stress levels and makes you feel good. And make sure you’re sitting in front of the television while you indulge in it.
How to Break Your Bad Habits
If you’re still struggling with your bad habits, here are some ideas that will help:
Increase your awareness.
You can’t change something if you don’t fully understand it. Before you make any effort to change your bad habits, you need to know exactly what you do, how often, why, how it makes you feel, and when you’re most vulnerable to the habit. This will help you to develop a plan for changing the habit that will actually work.
Start with your smallest bad habit and the smallest change you can manage. This will help you focus your efforts and build confidence.
Build your self-discipline.
You can’t always rely on motivation. When it fails, you will need self-discipline to push you forward even when you really don’t feel like it.
Remove the triggers.
If you’re trying to remove a bad habit completely, you need to remove the triggers. Throw out that junk food. Hide the remote. Freeze your credit cards. Throw out the ashtrays and the lighters. Avoid your morning coffee. Whatever it is that makes you want to do the bad habit, get rid of it.
Enlist a buddy.
Humans are social creatures, which is why you need to enlist the help of a buddy. If you have an appointment for a workout with a friend, you’ll be less likely to blow it off because they’re counting on you. And you’re less likely to allow yourself to fail overall if you know that someone is watching and will know.
Be Careful what you think.
Learning to control your thoughts is one of the most valuable things you can do. Your thoughts often create your emotions, even when you’re unaware of them, and will either motivate you or drive you to the cookie jar. So be aware of the negative self-talk that goes on and learn to replace it with affirming, positive talk. Because you can do it, you just need to know that right to your core.
Have a plan.
Don’t rely on yourself to do the right thing when you’re tired, busy, or just feeling demotivated. If you rely on your will power to help you overcome these weak moments, chances are they will completely derail your efforts. That’s why you need to plan. You need to know what you’re going to do, eat or think when it gets rough. Having a plan means that you aren’t at the whims of the first suggestion your mind makes. And avoiding that at all costs is the only way to avoid costly slips.
You probably have a number of habits that hurt your body, your life, or your business success. Changing these habits won’t be easy, but it is essential if you want to get to a better place in your life. No matter what bad habits you have, whether you eat too much, spend too much money, or sit on the couch when you should be exercising, the key is to start making a change. Even a small change, a small bad habit turned into a good one, will have a profound effect on your life and your happiness levels.