How to Break a Bad Habit

Research says that 40 percent of our actions are habits not conscious decisions. A Habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”. Generally habits are good things; but what about the bad habits- biting your nails, smoking, procrastination, etc.? Habits are learned, therefore they can’t just be deleted, but they can be replaced by more desired behaviors. Many people have habits that they want to break, but they feel like they can’t do it, the idea of it seems impossible or too difficult to challenge.

Breaking a habit is easier than it seems. In order to break a bad habit we must first define the habit. What is the behavior you want to stop and why do you want to stop it? Many people are on board the idea of breaking a habit without being sure they really want to make the change and why they want to make the change.

Once you recognize the habit you want to stop and the reason as to why you want/ need to stop it you then need to identify what triggers this habit. Many habits are habitual behaviors that have evolved because they have been rewarded in some way.

Most bad habits come out as a way of dealing with situations that may cause stress, anger, boredom, etc. For example, many people who smoke look at it as a stress reliever. In order to break a habit it is important to identify what triggers the habit.

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What is the cue that sets you off? Is it a time a day, a memory, an emotion? Ask yourself “do I do this habit whenever blank occurs?” Once you are able to define whether it is a situational or emotional context that triggers the habit you are better able to find ways to break the habit and develop another healthier way of achieving the same reward. Next we need to identify the reinforcement and replace it with something that gives you the same satisfaction. What are you really getting out of this action/habit? This can be a really difficult step. By smoking you can get unhealthy skin, the risk of lung cancer, brown teeth, but it relieves your stress and so it’s justifiable, right? What can you do that is better for you and will give you the same satisfaction? For example you smoke because for you it relieves stress after you smoke you feel a sense relieve.

What else gives you a sense of relief? Go to the gym, listen to music, chew gum, or cook. Visualize your success, in your mind practice breaking the habit by imagining yourself engaging in the desired behaviors rather than the old ones. For example, if your goal is to eat better than visualize yourself in the kitchen preparing health meals. Visualize that in a short period of time you will lose the 10 pounds you’re trying to lose. Remember it is okay to think about the habit you’re trying to break, just remember to visualize and remind yourself of the outcome from breaking this bad habit. Support is very important when breaking a habit. When trying to break a habit tell supportive people about your plan, it’s a great feeling to have support and encouragement. Invite friends to call you out when you slip up and there be consequences. An example of this would be if you’re trying to stop cursing; keep a swear jar and every time you slip up you have to put a dollar or an amount you would hate to give up into your husband/wife/support jar as well as your own jar.

Stick to this whenever you slip up. Eventually you’ll become more cautious of the things you’re saying because you’ll get tired of paying up. Habits are created when a behavior is rewarded in some way as I mentioned earlier. With that being said find a way to reward yourself for good behavior. For example, if you’re trying to break the habit of being late to class, you can reward yourself with something you like, like a caramel flan latte from Starbucks that you love so much every day that you’re on time to class, until the reward is no longer needed.

However, the most successful reward will be the one that comes after that breaking that habit. Lastly, when breaking a bad habit, be patient. Behavioral training is a long process, and breaking a habit take time. Studies show that in most cases it takes 28 days to break a habit. However, reality is a lot more complicated and it progress depends on the individual and the habit. The first few days will be the hardest, but it important to stay focused and think about the outcome. There will be times when you want to give up there may even be times when you slip up but you must continue to push. Remember to you can do it!

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How to Break a Bad Habit. (2016, Sep 15). Retrieved from

How to Break a Bad Habit
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