Habits are often embedded so deeply without us even realizing that we are actually doing this habit. Whether it's a less annoying bad habit like knuckling or a more serious habit like smoking, you need a conscious effort and a smart plan to stop this repetitive behavior. Don't hesitate to seek help from a professional in this field if you are unable to break the bad habit yourself.
Step 1. Write down the details related to your habit
Have a notebook ready to take notes if you have a bad habit or feel tempted to do so. Write down for at least one week what you did and how you felt when you did this bad habit. In this way, you can find patterns in your habits and be able to think consciously about these habits. Consider these possible factors:
- Does this bad habit occur more often when you are stressed or feeling nervous?
- Is this bad habit more common (or less) in certain places or during certain activities?
Step 2. Free yourself from temptation
Try to avoid things, places, and people that make you want to get into bad habits. Use your notebook as a tool to identify this. Because bad habits often occur without conscious thought, it's easier to eliminate the triggers than to try to quit by relying on full concentration.
- If you want to stop eating unhealthy foods, move all of these foods from the kitchen or elsewhere in your home to more difficult-to-reach places. When you want to buy food, don't pass through unhealthy food outlets, or buy healthy foods on your grocery list, and don't carry extra cash or credit cards.
- If you're trying not to keep checking your phone, turn off the ringer first or set your phone's signal to airplane mode. If that doesn't work either, turn off your phone and place it in another room in the house.
Step 3. Make your bad habit feel no longer pleasant
If possible, this can be an effective trigger to quit and prevent you from unknowingly repeating this habit.
- A classic example is the way people bite their nails, and to get rid of this bad habit, they coat their nails with a substance that tastes bad. Special products for this purpose are available at drugstores.
- Recovering alcoholics sometimes requires medical treatment which can cause unpleasant symptoms if they are used to being drunk due to alcoholism.
- For a bad habit that's hard to make to feel uncomfortable, wear a rubber band around your arm and snap it so your skin stings every time you want to do this habit again.
Step 4. Replace bad habits with new good or neutral habits
Bad habits won't just go away by adopting new good habits, but your old bad habits will be easier to break if you can practice these new habits regularly and experience new pleasures.
- Many people feel the same pleasure from exercising or jogging regularly every day after they get used to doing these activities.
- For some, they find a more helpful and easier way to break bad habits by adopting the opposite "good habit," and you can make these good habits a focus for you to develop. For example, to avoid unhealthy foods, challenge yourself by cooking a healthy dinner several times a week.
Step 5. Stay alert while temptation persists
If you're still easily drawn back into old habits, say "don't do it, don't do it" over and over again in your mind. If you know beforehand that this is going to happen, have a plan in place for what you really want to do. This conscious effort that you do can easily suppress bad habits that you are not aware of that you do without thinking first.
For example, if you want to quit smoking, make a quitting plan by preparing yourself a cup of coffee or chatting with coworkers while they are taking a smoking break. If your friend grabs a cigarette during a conversation, say to yourself "no thanks, no thanks, no thanks" if your friend offers you a cigarette
Step 6. Go on vacation for a few days
Breaking a habit is easier to do if you're in an unfamiliar environment, perhaps because your brain can no longer work with "automatic control." Take a weekend trip somewhere and focus on getting into a new routine.
Step 7. Reward yourself when you don't repeat old habits
Do fun activities as a reward for yourself because you have succeeded in realizing your plan. Connect your success with positive feelings and experiences, not with disappointment if you haven't achieved what you want.
Maybe you need to try with a few gifts before you find the one that fits best. Set an alarm to go off fifteen minutes after you give yourself a gift. After this alarm stops, ask yourself if you still want to do the bad habit. If the answer is still, try giving a different gift next time
Step 8. Try meditating to reprogram your mind
The next time you feel like you're in a situation that tends to make you want to get into a bad habit, stop whatever you're doing and try meditating for a few minutes. At first, this method may only be useful as a distraction, but in the long run, it can be used to calm yourself and fulfill your desires without relying on your habits anymore.
Step 9. Ask your friends or family for help
The people you usually meet and the people who love you are good advocates for breaking bad habits, as long as they also take your efforts seriously. Ask them to help you implement the changes you are making in your lifestyle, and rebuke you if you get back into bad habits.
There are several anti-dependence programs created on the basis of agreements signed by people that will help to define exactly what their responsibilities are, including actions they are uncomfortable with if they have to do such as throwing away cigarettes or alcohol belonging to the person they are helping
Step 10. Seek help from an expert
If your bad habits have serious repercussions in your life, seek help from someone who is an expert in this area. There are 12-step organizations and programs that can help overcome any form of dependency. The therapist or doctor should be able to recommend an appropriate program, or make a referral to someone who can do individual counseling.