How to break a bad habit: 9 science-based methods

Have you ever wondered why some people set goals for themselves but never reach them? They may strive to work harder or achieve financial freedom, but all their aspirations always turn into the same thing – failure. In the vast majority of cases, bad habits are the cause of failure. And it’s not just smoking or drinking. This can also include a lack of faith in yourself, setting yourself up for negative results, useless pastimes like watching TV after work, and constantly scrolling through news feeds on social networks.

How long does it take to get rid of a bad habit? Some researchers recommend a 21-day plan, others suggest a plan for a month or even as many as three.

But the most important factor is still not to choose the right deadline. The most important thing is to find really working strategies that would help a person get rid of habits that in any way drag him to the bottom.

1. Create an environment for developing good habits

Some research shows that the environment influences the formation of our habits. The bottom line is that you depend on what you see (visual signals) more than on what you hear, feel, etc. That is, in the formation of habits, vision plays a greater role than other senses. That is why visual cues determine your behavior.

To break bad habits, you must focus on positive signals that reinforce positive habits. Another approach is to build new habits and stop exposing yourself to cues that reinforce negative patterns. It will be easier for you to avoid temptation than to resist it. For example, if you want to read more books and cut down on TV, keep the remote control in another room, but put books in every corner of your house.

Why this approach works:

  • In addition to training willpower and understanding the need to get rid of negative habits, you help yourself rebuild into positive habits by changing the environment, that is, getting rid of temptations.

2. Start from smallest to largest

Everyone wants to make significant changes as quickly as possible. You would not mind training for an hour every morning while getting the perfect body in a week. But it would be best if you admitted these dreams are not destined to come true. So let’s look at things more realistically.

The problem is that achieving any major goal will always require a strong will. Willpower becomes less and less the more you use it all the time. And when your willpower runs out completely, you will refuse to achieve your goal. The best approach is to start eliminating minor bad habits and then make progress towards eliminating the larger goal. You can start by fighting bad habits from less serious to more significant.

Why this approach works:

  • You see the first results of your efforts, which motivates you to further work on yourself.
  • Eliminating small bad habits can make it much easier to eliminate the serious negative habits associated with them.

3. Identify your negative habits

If you want to instill good habits in yourself, the best approach is to make your negative habits visible. This strategy also applies if you are developing a strategy to help you kick bad habits. Hints are very important in forming habits. So you can use a habit scorecard. This is a simple exercise that will help you be aware of your behavior on a daily basis.

The first step is to make a chronological list of your daily habits. You simply write down all the activities that you usually do daily and underline the repetitive ones.

The second step is to rate each habit as “effective”, “ineffective”, or “neutral”. The importance of this strategy is that it helps you recognize the significance of each habit in your personal growth. Now that you have a list of habits ready, the next thing you need to do is to remove the negative habits and ensure that only those that benefit you remain on the list.

Why this approach works:

  • You personally analyze the significance of each habit you have acquired.
  • You get a detailed list of habits to get rid of.
  • You can track your progress daily.

4. Find out what consequences your habits may have in the long term

Bad habits have serious consequences, from deteriorating relationships with others, family, and friends to ruined health and broken careers. Try to analyze how your habits affect your future and what will happen in the next 5-10 years if you do not stop indulging them. It will be easy for you to get rid of bad habits when you realize their consequences.

Why this approach works:

  • You get a rationale for why you need to get rid of a particular habit.

5. Determine the cost of your negative actions

Do you want to eliminate negative habits? Determine the cost of each of your actions. For example, if you want to quit smoking and gradually reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day, then set a kind of “fine for excess”. Or here’s another: if after work you’ve been watching entertainment shows until night, instead of finishing work for tomorrow, although the deadlines are burning cooler than September in the song “Stigmata”, turn off the Internet every time you come home, and first finish it all urgent matters.

Why this approach works:

  • In most cases, you will not want to “pay the bills”, and it will be much easier to gradually give up the bad habit.

6. Think about how bad habits can deprive you of the results you want

For example, you want to make a career. But because of the habit of putting everything off until later, you constantly miss deadlines. What do you think the chances are of an unreliable employee like you getting promoted?

Why this approach works:

  • You will clearly see how your bad habits negatively affect your ability to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true.

7. Stop thinking negatively – train yourself to think neutrally or positively first

You may have made these statements in the past: “This situation is hopeless”, “I don’t think I can get through this”, “I’ll try, but…” and so on.

If you are familiar with these statements, it means that you have intensified your bad habits more than once. Psychological research shows that our subconscious gives meaning to what it hears. In other words, you will live up to your words. Instead of immediately thinking about the possibility of a bad outcome, try to train yourself to think more positively.

Why this approach works:

  • When you think negatively, you set yourself up for failure in advance and reduce your efficiency to save time and effort. “Well, I still can’t do it.”

8. Develop mindfulness

Your life is defined by what you do all the time, not what you occasionally do. So, first of all, you can try to make your life more conscious, so that you can focus on what will be useful to you, and on what, on the contrary, is harmful.

Why this approach works:

  • You begin to better understand yourself and your needs, which gives you an additional incentive to get rid of everything that drags you down.

9. Associate yourself with someone whose habits have left an imprint on his life

If you understand that the habit of drinking beer after a hard day, when every working day is hard, is not an option and you should give up drinking so much alcohol, try to remember your relatives, friends or acquaintances, whom this habit has brought to a not the best life. Perhaps one of them lost his job or family, and someone even drank himself, although he started with the same 0.5 evenings.

Why this approach works:

  • You see a specific example and begin to realize what can happen to your life if you do not start to get rid of addiction.
  • A living example sometimes convinces even better than expert advice.

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