How to Break a Bad Habit: 6 Steps

22nd April 2022

Bad habits are easily formed, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has times when they are perhaps not at their best. Luckily, some steps can help break these unhealthy cycles and make moves to build better routines. The key to bad habits is to not try and eradicate them from your life. Instead, replacing them with more productive habits is much easier and more beneficial.

How Do Bad Habits Form?

One of the key reasons bad habits begin is not filling your time with productive tasks, leaving you bored and at a loose end. If you think about sitting around the house with nothing to do, you may end up picking at snacks in the cupboard when you’re not even hungry. Doing this regularly will then lead to the habit of snacking to fill the time whenever you’re sat with nothing to do, forming. 

Stress is another significant factor in the formation of bad habits. Stress can lead us to act out in reassuring or comforting ways to help take off the edge. This is how patterns such as nail-biting and smoking can occur as a way to try and calm ourselves and ease the pressure.

6 Helpful Steps You Can Take:

1. Stop viewing your bad habits as ‘bad’

Although bad habits can sometimes have a negative effect on your life and health, they are helping you in some way. Bad habits form as a method of coping with stress, which has a massively negative impact on the body. Being under a great deal of stress can lead to anxiety and other illnesses, in which case, some of the habits that form to cope with this can help alleviate some of this stress. By viewing your bad habits as ‘bad’, you risk putting yourself under more pressure and lowering your self-esteem. It is important to remember that they can be easily altered with effort.

2. Identify your triggers

Once bad habits form, it can be hard to remember how they even started or a time before you engaged in the pattern. However, these habits haven’t always been there. Remembering a time before your bad habit started can help you figure out what potentially could have caused you to begin. For instance, if you started smoking when you were an adult, this habit may have started when you got a more stressful job role or started spending time with people who smoke. Once you have figured out what these triggers are, you can begin to do something about them and look out for when they may happen. It can be helpful to use the method of the three Rs, reminder, routine, and reward, to help you. 

3. Get a friend/ family member to hold you accountable

It might be tempting to keep your efforts to change a bad habit to yourself if you are unsuccessful. However, this can leave you feeling isolated, especially if you find it difficult. By confiding in someone close to you, you can help alleviate some of this pressure and gain extra motivation. Your friends and family only want the best for you, so they can be a valuable tool in helping you improve the quality of your life. It can also be helpful to find someone else who is trying to change a bad habit and take on the task together.

4. Take each day as it comes

If we set ourselves a goal that we want to achieve, the time scale and effort it will take can often be overwhelming. This can lead you to quit before you’ve even begun. Focussing on one day at a time can take the pressure off when trying to change a bad habit. Seeing each day as a small success can alter your mindset and motivate you to take on the next, and before you know it, you have gone a month without engaging in your bad habit! Some great smartphone apps share daily motivational messages to help you keep a positive mindset.

5. Do your research

It can be daunting to start the journey to changing a bad habit. It can sometimes be hard to know where to even begin. Luckily, many people out there have gone through similar experiences and shared their wisdom with the world. Authors like James Clean have excellent backgrounds in recovering from bad habits and have created books with some of the best advice and motivation to help others succeed. These resources can be great to come back to when you lack drive and motivation and give you the tools to combat these feelings.

6. Write down your reasons for change

Writing down a list of reasons you want to change at the start of your journey can be very helpful. Not only does this help to keep you motivated, but it will also help you remember how a bad habit made you feel. It was likely to have been having a negative impact on your quality of life, which can be forgotten once you stop engaging in the habit. Reminding yourself of the ‘whys’ helps keep you focussed on the positive changes you’re making when they feel hard to overcome. Staying mindful of how a bad habit makes you feel has been proven very effective in helping people make changes for the better.

We hope these steps and resources will help you or someone you know change their bad habits into more positive ones and live a happier, healthier life.