We are creatures of habits; these patterns help us live organized lives. Even the most disorganized person in the world has certain habits that they cannot live without. Our habits are part of our subconscious, and, once developed, these habits can make it very hard for people to change or leave them.
The most important thing is to be able to identify whether your habits are good or bad. While habits like waking up early, exercising, preparing your clothes for work, or engaging in ‘green choices’ are productive and good for your well-being, some habits are detrimental. These include drinking excessive caffeine, procrastination, biting nails, addictions, etc. You need to actively work to eliminate these bad habits if you want to live a healthy and happy life.
Breaking bad habits is not easy and will need your willpower and patience. However, many sources indicate that it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit and 21 days to break it. Every attempt at breaking a habit is tied to your willingness to eliminate it from your life. The greater your willingness, the easier will be the road to success. You can try the following tips to help you in the process.
Seek professional help
Bad habits that involve consuming addictive substances like drugs and alcohol can be tough to break because the body develops a dependence. Consuming such substances triggers the release of dopamine, giving bursts of pleasure that encourage repeat usage. Breaking these habits may require professional help since you can experience severe withdrawal symptoms when you decide to quit.
Some institutions help with medical detox, family recovery, inpatient treatment, and partial hospitalization so you can effectively let go of a deconstructive habit. One such example is the Palm Beach Institute, which provides inpatient and outpatient plans for patients. So sign-up for help if you feel you need it.
Self-reflect on your habits
It is essential to identify what led you to where you currently are, i.e., making the habit. Self-reflect and see what caused you to develop a certain habit. A simple technique is to analyze a habit on the 3 Rs:
- Reminder: Identity what reminds you to resort to the detrimental habit. It could be conscious or unconscious.
- Routine: Analyze the type of behavior you engage in and emotions you experience when the trigger occurs.
- Reward: Identify the feeling you experience when you indulge in a habit. It could be a dopamine release in your brain that makes you feel happy.
Find your motivator
Why do you want to break this habit? What motivates you to let this behavior go? Find out how the change can benefit you and your loved ones. Talk to them and ask them how it would benefit them if you left the habit. Take some time with yourself and analyze yourself. Start listing them. When you list them, a lot more comes to your mind. Place these reasons where you can see them regularly. It helps keep your resolve strong and reminds you why you’re trying to let go of bad habits.
Ask for a non-judgmental support system
Look for a friend or family member you can fall back on if things go south. It is normal to relapse; what’s important is that you get back on your feet and continue on your journey to recovery. A solid support system can help you with that.
You can also get help from a friend who is suffering from the same habit and wants to break it. For example, you both want to stop drinking excessively. Dealing with urges and cravings with someone makes it easier to fight them. You can cheer your friend when they take a step towards recovery, and they can do the same for you.
Look for a substitute
It will become much easier to break a habit if you can replace the unwanted behavior with a substitute. For example, you want to avoid stress eating and resist the urge to go to the snack aisle or cupboard. Try channeling it to productive sources like cleaning your house or gardening etc. When you start repeating your new lifestyle, it helps develop a routine. This routine eventually helps cut out the bad habit and replaces it with this productive one. Physical exercise can trigger the release of ‘happy hormones in your body, just like taking drugs or alcohol. So, find a substitute that triggers the same reward system or services as a healthy distraction, or both.
Use reminders for positive reinforcement
Use a sticky note, stickers, or wallpapers on your phones, iPods, laptops, etc. For example, if you want to decrease the number of soft drinks or sodas you consume with your meals, try putting a sticky note on the fridge that reminds you of it. You might also put a picture of the kind of body you’ll have if you don’t stop this habit.
You can set alarms or reminders on your devices. Add a motivating note to yourself that makes you smile and encourages you to adopt a new productive habit instead of the unproductive one.
The all-or-nothing mindset is a hoax
You must accept you can relapse and spiral back down to this deconstructive habit. You cannot stop yourself from feeling frustrated or emotional when it happens, and you shouldn’t. It might make you question your will to move on, and you might begin doubting yourself. Understand that it is just your insecurity talking, look at how far you’ve come to prevent yourself from relapsing further. Remember, tomorrow is another day and presents another opportunity if you’re willing to take it up.
Take baby steps
Don’t make the mistake of setting up unrealistic or unachievable goals. Try setting up small achievable goals for yourself. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, begin by reducing your intake to a few cigarettes a day instead of quitting abruptly. Then bring it down to one and finally zero. You’re less likely to replace this way. Think of your new and improved self if you successfully break the habit. Moreover, try to change one habit at a time for better results.
Remember that the most important constituent to breaking a habit is perseverance. You might try and fail many times trying to break it, but it always tells you more about the reasons why a certain habit is so deeply ingrained. Don’t judge yourself and feel guilty about it because you’ll just demotivate yourself. Wrap your head around the entire problem, and then try breaking that habit, preferably with professional assistance.