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How to Break a Bad Habit

Old habits die hard, but when it comes to bad ones, die they must. Bad habits suck your time and energy. They make it impossible to achieve your goals and they are mentally and physically toxic. When you’re trying to move away from certain behaviors, there are ways to set yourself up for success.

Identify Your Reason

Habits are hard to break, so you need something to motivate you to break one. Before you take action, think critically about why you want to eliminate this habit. Write out a list of all the reasons why getting rid of this behavior will help you live the life you want to live. For example, if you want to stop binge eating so you can lose weight, write out all the reasons why you want to lose weight, such as wanting to live a longer life or feel more comfortable in your skin. Memorize these reasons so when you are in a moment of weakness, you can vividly visualize your life without this habit.

Find a Replacement Habit

This habit exists because it serves a purpose. If you got nothing out of it, you wouldn’t do it, but this habit is benefiting you in some way. The problem is, it’s also harming you, so you need to find something that provides the same benefit in a healthy way. It’s essential to plan ahead for how you will replace this habit. If you tend to smoke when you’re stressed, for example, you need something else to help you manage stress, such as breathing exercises. Plan ahead to be best prepared for any triggers you experience.

Avoid Triggers

Speaking of triggers, it’s time to reduce their influence in your life. Identify what prompts you to indulge in this bad habit. Throw away those cookies that you always eat too many of, get rid of your emergency pack of cigarettes, and hide the TV remote. Create an environment where your bad habit isn’t reinforced and it will be a lot easier to let it go.

Make Small Changes

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you can’t expect to adopt all new healthier habits overnight. It would be great if you could completely re-organize your life, start following a strict eating plan, and work out six times a week in an instant, but if it were that easy, everyone would do it. Instead of making dramatic changes to your life, start with small changes first. For example, if you are trying to improve your sleep habits, try putting your phone away and reading for half an hour before bed every night. This small changes can add up to big ones.

Find a Buddy

Too often, when trying to stop a bad habit, we try to do so in private. We don’t want others to know in case we fail. However, this makes it all the more easy to give up on your efforts. Instead, find a friend who is also struggling with this bad habit, and quit together. You can establish accountability and celebrate each other’s successes.

Surround Yourself with Good Influences

This doesn’t mean you need to stop spending time with your friends, but who you spend time with has a major influence on what you do. For example, if you are trying to quit drinking and all your friends meet every week for happy hour, it’s going to be a lot harder. Surround yourself with people who behave in the way you’re trying to behave, and it will be much simpler to adopt better habits.

Prepare for Failure

You are going to make mistakes. Every human does at one point or another. As much as you want to get rid of that bad habit, slip ups are a normal part of the process. The point is to not let one error undo all of the progress you’ve made. So you skipped the gym or accidentally slept in or ate something you weren’t supposed to. Accept that this will happen, but it doesn’t have to define you. Failure is normal, so embrace it and move on.

Focus on the Positive

When you’re giving a bad habit up, you might feel deprived. This is especially true if you are focusing solely on what you are losing. Instead, think about what you are gaining. Don’t focus on the fact you can’t check your phone during dinner; think about how much more engaged you are in conversation with your loved ones, or how much better your food tastes when you’re fully present in the moment. Focusing on the negative aspects of changing only serves to romanticize your bad habit for you.

At Symmetry Counseling, we understand how difficult it can be to break old habits. If you need support as you let go of unhealthy behaviors and adopt new, better ones, contact us to schedule an appointment. We can connect you with a psychologist in Chicago who can help.

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