Everyone has habits, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. Some are pretty useful — maybe you always take the stairs instead of the elevator or automatically make your bed in the morning.
But other habits, such as constantly checking your phone, procrastinating on tasks, or snacking on unhealthy foods, might not be so beneficial.
Breaking unwanted habits can be challenging, especially if you’ve been engaging in them for a long time. However, understanding how habits form in the first place can make the process easier.
The making of a habit There are several theories about how habits develop. One of the main ones is the idea of the 3 Rs:
Reminder. This is a trigger or cue that prompts a behavior, such as receiving a notification on your phone or feeling stressed.
Routine. This is the behavior associated with the trigger. For example, checking your phone or grabbing a snack when you feel stressed. Repeating the behavior over time can make it a routine.
Reward. The pleasurable outcome associated with a behavior also helps to reinforce a habit. For instance, getting a sense of relief from stress when checking your phone or experiencing the immediate gratification of a tasty snack. The release of dopamine in your brain during these rewarding experiences can create a desire to repeat the behavior
Delaying immediate gratification for long-term benefits helps break bad habits. Resisting instant rewards requires patience, but it pays off in the end!
Know your triggers
Understanding your triggers is the first step in breaking a habit. Spend a few days observing when and where your habit tends to occur, as well as how you feel when it happens. Are there specific people or situations that trigger the habit? Identifying these triggers can help you become more aware of when the habit is likely to occur, and allow you to take steps to avoid or address those triggers in order to break the habit.
For example: Are you going to the gym?" with options "yes" or "no" can be effective in addressing bad habits because they allow for a clear and direct response, which can help individuals reflect on their behavior and make conscious choices.
You need a reason to stop the habit
Take some time to reflect on why you want to break or change a particular habit. Consider the benefits that you will gain from breaking the habit and write them down. Keeping a list of these reasons in a visible place, such as on your fridge or bathroom mirror, can serve as a reminder of why you are working towards breaking the habit and can help you stay motivated.
Buddy Up for Success
Breaking a habit can be challenging, so consider enlisting the support of a friend or partner who also wants to break a habit[. Having someone to share the journey with can provide motivation, encouragement, and accountability. You can cheer each other's successes and provide support during setbacks. Even if your friend doesn't have the same habit they want to break, simply sharing your goal with them can make a difference in your motivation and commitment to breaking the habit.
Mindfulness, which involves observing your thoughts, feelings, and actions without judgment, can help you become more aware of your habit and its triggers. By being mindful of your impulses and urges related to the habit, you can learn to recognize them and choose different responses. Mindfulness can also help you become more aware of how the habit affects your daily life, which can further motivate you to break it.
Don't stop a habits, Change it For example, if you want to stop eating sugary snacks in the afternoon, you could replace them with healthier options like fruits or nuts. By substituting a new behavior for the old habit, you are not just eliminating the habit but also replacing it with something positive.
Make reminders You can set up visual cues, such as sticky notes or alarms, to remind yourself of your goal to break the habit. For example, if you want to stop procrastinating, you can set up reminders on your phone or computer to stay focused on your tasks. These reminders can serve as prompts to help you stay mindful of your habit-breaking goal throughout the day.
Prepare for slipups Breaking a habit is not always easy, and it's important to be realistic and prepared for slipups along the way. It's normal to have setbacks and slip back into old habits, but it's important not to get discouraged. Instead, view slipups as opportunities to learn and grow, and use them as motivation to recommit to breaking the habit. Remember, change takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself and celebrate every small victory along the way!
It's important to keep stress low during the period of change and remember that willpower is like a muscle - it can get tired and has limits. So, it's crucial to choose your battles wisely and not overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once.
Why did Joe's resolution to quit eating junk food fail? Because he couldn't resist the allure of his favorite snack aisle at the grocery store, and his willpower crumbled like a cookie!
Why did Sarah's attempt to quit procrastinating fall short? Because she realized that "procrastination" was just a fancy word for "delaying the inevitable," and she couldn't resist the urge to put things off until tomorrow...or the next day!
Why did Mark's resolution to quit smoking go up in smoke? Because he discovered that his favorite smoking spot was also his favorite place to catch up with friends, and he couldn't resist the temptation to light up during social gatherings!
Why did Emily's attempt to quit hitting the snooze button fail? Because she realized that "snooze" spelled backward is "ezoons," and she couldn't resist the urge to press it over and over again in a futile attempt to prolong her morning sleep!
Why did Alex's resolution to quit scrolling through social media fall flat? Because he found out that his favorite meme accounts posted hilarious content every hour, and he couldn't resist the urge to keep swiping for more laughs!