By: Joel Syder
We all have some bad habits. It’s a fact of life that as self-improving human beings living in a society with an eye for self-improvement, we’re going to do a whole load of things which we have also identified as wrong or unnecessary.
Some habits can be dropped at the click of fingers, others require concentration and active effort, and others still will require hundreds of hours and the help of professionals. Whatever the case is for you, the first thing to recognize is that there is always a path towards losing a bad habit, and that there is always the possibility of reaching a time when you look back on your habit of old and wonder how you were ever in that position.
Self improvement is a process and it requires all the tools available to you. If you are worried that you don’t have the time, energy, or discipline to get rid of a bad habit, hopefully these tips will give you a good place to start and a way to rid yourself of that fear.
So without further ado, here are 5 tips for losing those bad habits effectively.
Listen to Justin address this topic on Episode 792 of Optimal Living Daily.
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1. Identify Why And When
One of the reasons that habits are hard to break out of is that they tend to link themselves strongly to other aspects of your life. These aspects can be divided into the psychological and the routine, also known as the why and the when.
“Figuring out why a habit exists can require some soul searching and can be difficult. Maybe you bite your nails as a release for built up anxiety; maybe you eat unhealthily to make yourself feel better temporarily. Once you know, you can get at the root issue, to alleviate the habit,” suggests Natalie Wright, motivational coach at WriteMyx and BritStudent.
Identifying the when is particularly helpful for habits that have roots deep in your daily routine. Do you always end up smoking when you drink? Maybe you bite your pen or pencil at work but not at home? Figuring all this out gives you the data you need to overcome your problems in an effective and permanent way.
2. Swap In A Different Habit With Less Consequences
Kicking a habit is a task which, like so many difficult tasks, requires willpower. Willpower is a valuable and limited resource. Some of us having more of it than others, but in the instance of beating habits, a bit of trickery can be used in place of willpower. By directly swapping one habit in for the other, you trick your mind into thinking that you’re continuing on with the thing that you like, when in reality you’ve swapped it out for something more socially acceptable/healthy/beneficial.
Examples of this might be swapping fruit or healthy food in for junk food in trying to eliminate your snacking problem, or chewing gum instead of your fingernails. These little acts may not eliminate the habit, but they buy you time by redirecting your brain's attention. It doesn’t solve the root issue, but it can make the annoying surface level presence disappear. It’s possible that it will take you a few tries to identify what the best substitute habit is for the most effective transition, but once you’ve honed in on it, it will make your life a lot easier.
3. Bring Other People In On It
Bad habits can often leave you feeling isolated, at war with yourself over an issue that no one else can see or understand why it would be so important to you. If this is the case, then one of the most effective things you can do is bring other people in on your self discipline war.
“Telling friends and family that you are doing something about a certain habit, attempting to make a change in your life gives you a support system,” advises Vincent Parker, counselor at 1Day2Write and NextCoursework. “It doesn’t matter the size of the habit — if the people around you know that you’ve committed, they then embody your own willpower and serve as reminders to you not to relapse into your old ways, which is an extremely effective deterrent for anyone struggling to beat something.”
Make sure that it is someone who you trust, so that were you to transgress, you could rely on them to remind you of your commitment in a way which won’t make you feel victimized or guilty. Having those sorts of people around you makes it far more likely that you will break free from the chains of a habit.
4. Record Your Progress
Writing down each step of the process of shaking a habit is a great way to hold yourself accountable and an even better way to ensure that your efforts have some longevity and aren’t simply short term. The only thing that is worse than relapsing into a habit in the midst of trying to give it up is letting that relapse be the start of abandoning the attempts altogether.
The way to prevent this is by recording on a daily basis if you indulged in your habit or if you didn’t. So you might write that you bit your nails three times one day and that you didn’t bite them at all on another. If weight loss is your goal then you ought to write your weight down every day when you wake up, regardless as to whether you ate a full-size pizza on your own the night before. This technique keeps you focused and allows you to see the mistakes you make as bumps on the road to victory rather than as a huge ditch that you’ll never pull yourself out of.
5. Prove It To Yourself
Sometimes in the course of abandoning a habit or weaning yourself out of some sort of behavior you might catch yourself thinking “Why do I bother?” Your brain will work mighty hard to try and persuade you that a habit is acceptable, and this moment of wondering if what you do is actually all that bad can derail the whole process.
Once you’ve got going on a path to breaking a habit, allow the act of being on the path to become your motivation. Prove to yourself that you have the willpower, and decide that no matter what, you will persevere.
By implementing just one or two of these suggestions, you are giving yourself a strong start to conquering your habits. For the record, some habits are addictive, but addiction is a separate issue and may require more serious intervention, though these tips will likely still apply. If you suffer from alcohol or drug addiction, then you ought to engage the help of professionals to guide you through the recovery. Otherwise, best of luck!
He enjoys helping people to live their lives to the full as well as creating articles about things that excite him for AcademicBrits.com