Whether it’s swearing, impulsive shopping, skipping breakfast, or checking Facebook every 2 minutes, we all have bad habits that we’d like to do away with.
The problem is that habits are, by the very nature, habitual; they arise from our unconscious minds as if we hold no control over them. But you do have control, and you can kick your bad habits to the curb if you follow this advice.
1. Be Mindful Of Them
To be able to combat your bad habits, you must first train your focus on them so that they no longer reside within the unconscious part of your mind. To learn a new behavior – or in this case to unlearn a current behavior – you must give it your full attention. Only then can you begin to rewire your brain and say goodbye to your bad habits.
Much of the time, a habit is accompanied by an urge. When we give in to this urge, we exhibit the unwanted behavior. Bearing this in mind, you must remain watchful at all times and try to identify these urges before they can lead to the habit.
Only when you are able to detect the urge as it grows can you begin to fight it before it takes hold.
2. Recognize Tomorrow’s You In Today’s Actions
Many people fail to associate their future selves with what they do today. Their minds trick them into ignoring the negative impacts of their bad habits and this effectively blinds them to the need to give the up.
Forging a link in your mind between the you of today and the you of tomorrow will encourage more considerate behavior that takes into account the wellbeing of your future self.
Imagine having a conversation with this prospective version of you; listen to their warnings and use these as reminders every time you feel your habitual side taking control.
3. Take One Bad Habit At A Time
You may have many habits that you’d like to give up, but willpower is a finite resource, and attempting to tackle too many things at once will increase the chances of failure.
So stick to one bad habit at a time, focus all of your attention on that and beat it before you move on to the next challenge.
4. Ignore Your Fear Of Failure
You may not even attempt to tackle your bad habits until you have overcome any fear you have that you may fail. Failure is a natural thing; it doesn’t need to be final and it doesn’t need to be painful if you don’t let it.
You have to recognize any such fear and address it by seeing it for what it is: a product of your ego.
5. Don’t Get Angry When You Relapse
Breaking a bad habit is far from easy, and it is quite likely that you will return to the behavior on more than one occasion before you can conquer it once and for all.
To give yourself the best chance of resuming your quest after a relapse, you must not get angry with yourself. Be forgiving, be understanding, and be humble; just don’t be angry.
6. Don’t Tell People About Your Goals
It may seem counterintuitive, but by announcing your aim to beat a bad habit, you actually lower your chances of succeeding. By telling others what you want to achieve, you trick your mind into believing you are half way there.
This is to do with what’s known as identity goals. You may want to break a bad habit to alter how you identify yourself both inwardly and outwardly. As soon as you let other people know what you are doing, they instantly begin to see you in a different light. This falsely convinces your mind that the identity goal is already partially complete.
With part of your goal seemingly achieved, you don’t put as much effort into actually making it a reality.
So don’t tell anyone what you are trying to accomplish; just go about it quietly in the background.
7. Try Not To Reward Progress With A Binge
A common stumbling block for those seeking to prevail over a bad habit is to reward good progress by splurging on the very thing they are attempting to overcome.
So you could be trying to give up a particularly sugary food or drink that you know is bad for you. After going a whole week without consuming it, you might think it’s ok to treat yourself to a few of them at the weekend, but this will only make it harder to go without the following week.
Binging as a reward for making progress is one step forward, two steps back.
If you need a reward, make it something completely unrelated to the bad habit you are trying to break.
8. Find Harmless Substitutes Or Alternatives
There are certain bad habits where fairly direct substitutions can be made which allow you to maintain some degree of the habit, but without the negative connotations.
If you are vulnerable to buying a new outfit almost every week, find a local swap meet where you can indulge your desire for a new look without hurting your bank balance.
Or if you have struggled to give up smoking in the past, try using an e-cigarette which allows you to maintain some semblance of the habit, but without the detrimental effects on your health.
9. Seek Help
When a habit is really causing you harm, the best thing you can do is to seek help from a professional. It may sound a bit over the top for some minor habits, but when there is a pressing need to give something up, often the most successful method is to consult an expert for guidance.
Whether your social media habit has turned to obsession, or you are unable to stop grinding your teeth, there are services you can turn to for assistance.
10. Replace A Bad Habit With A Good One
Because we only have so much time, focus, and attention available to us, it is possible to drive bad habits out of your life by spending time making new good habits.
Maybe you want to break free from the lure of celebrity gossip magazines, for instance. Reading a book, doing a puzzle, or even learning to draw are things that can fill the time that you’d usually kill by reading about celebrities. And they are all pastimes that can help improve your cognitive abilities.
Whatever your bad habits, no matter how harmful they may seem, you should try to overcome them, using some of the tips featured here as part of your plan of action.
What bad habits would you like to kick? Leave a comment below and let us know.