We all have them–bad habits.
From biting our nails to smoking, from browsing Facebook non-stop at work to spending too much money in unnecessary purchases, and from rumor-mongering to easily getting angry. We wish these bad habits can stop jeopardizing our body, finances, career, and even our relationships. After all, we know it’s a complete waste of time and energy, not to mention adding more problems in our already complicated lives.
But breaking bad habits is not as easy as it sounds. We try to stop but we can’t. Is there really anything that we can do about our bad habits so we can get rid of them for good?
Actually, as many psychologists would agree, you don’t get rid of a bad habit, you replace it.
Often, we find ourselves succumbing to bad habits because of two things: we’re stressed or we’re bored. This is because bad habits address certain needs in our lives, yet they become bad because we choose to do something that is destructive or counterproductive. Therefore, you need to replace these bad habits with good ones to address the same need.
For example, if you resort to drinking to cap off your busy week, you can instead replace it with exercise. Come up with a different way to release stress and reward yourself. If you spend hours on the Internet browsing through social media and websites because you think you have nothing else to do, think again. Get up on your feet and get into a more active and more social hobby, such as sports, crafts, art, gardening, or just going out with your friends. Better yet, join your local community outreach and do something useful with your excess time while interacting with people and getting to know their inspiring stories.
1. Identify triggers. For each of the habits you want to break, identify what triggers you. Whether you smoke when you’re angry, drink alcohol when you’re stressed, or lash out on random people when you’ve been reprimanded by your boss, think about your triggers.
2. For every single trigger, determine how you’re going to address them positively. For example, if you like to smoke whenever you go to the bathroom or have coffee, find some substitute, like reading or completing puzzles. If you find yourself eating too much when you’re stressed, replace your coping mechanism with exercise instead.
3. Stay focused. For at least a month, focus on being consistent with replacing your reactions to your triggers. Try your best to be consistent with your positive habit substitutes. At first, this may be difficult but as the weeks go along, you’ll find yourself doing the positive habits like real habits–automatically and without much thought. Continue with this until the habit has actually formed.
4. Avoid triggers and situations. Avoid the places where you usually drink, overspend, overeat, or do your bad habits. When you find yourself abusing drugs, for example, also avoid the people who you use drugs with, or where you get drugs from. It may be difficult at first, especially when there is peer pressure involved, but once you know how to say “no” to people and situations, you will find that you can actually overcome your urges.
5. Ride out the wave. There will be times when you think you’re doing fine replacing your bad habits, but then the cravings start to set it. Keep in mind that these urges come in waves, so just ride it out. You can do this with the help of meditation, breathing exercises, walking, exercising, or calling a friend or support group.
6. Seek help. Talk to close friends or family and trusted people about what you are going through. Who knows, they may be going through the same thing in their own ways. You can then establish a support group that you can talk to when the cravings come.
7. You can do it! There will be times when the struggle can be very difficult that you can lose hope and give up. However, always remember that these are just bumps in the road and you can do it. Always be positive–and when negative thoughts creep in, squish them out fast.
If you have a serious bad habit that involves drugs and alcohol, seek professional help as well.