by Caitlin H,
May 15, 2023
Many of us structure our lives around habits, such as getting up at 7 a.m., drinking a cup of morning coffee, or eating dinner at 6 p.m. These regular practices may be a critical part of ensuring your everyday life is consistent and manageable, and that’s a good thing.
But some habits—such as smoking, overeating, drinking, consuming too much caffeine, or scanning social media right before bed—can negatively impact your overall health and well-being.
There’s a good chance you can quickly identify your own bad habit (or habits). There’s an even better chance you are well aware of their harmful effects. So how do you go about breaking those bad habits?
Read on for 10 tips to successfully break a bad habit for good.
1) Know the three “R’s”.
We generally create habits in three steps: Reminder, routine, and reward.
Reminders are mental cues, whether conscious or unconscious, that tend to cause nervousness or other emotions when we don’t address them.
Routine is what we do to address those reminders, such as lighting up a cigarette or grabbing an unhealthy snack when feeling anxious.
Reward is when our brains release a chemical called dopamine, which is the physical effect of the routine. It’s the main reason we create and continue to have positive or negative habits.
2) Pinpoint your triggers.
Use a journal to write down the events and feelings surrounding your habits. What is the habit? When do you do it? Is it a solo activity or does it involve others? What are your emotions when you do it? What happens before and after?
Doing this for a week will help you identify the moments and people that align with the bad habit you’re trying to break. Awareness is vital.
3) Figure out why you want to change it.
As part of your journaling, write why you want to break a bad habit. How is it impeding your life and well-being? What’s the value of changing it? Keep these thoughts in your mind, or print them out and hang them somewhere to stay motivated.
4) Lean on loved ones for support.
Telling a friend or family member about your mission to break a bad habit can go a long way toward helping you do it. Ask them to keep you accountable by checking in on your progress. Their excitement will mesh well with your own to keep you going strong.
If you have a friend or family member who has the same bad habit, consider asking them if they want to break it at the same time you do. Sharing insights along the way and celebrating each other’s success is another excellent way to ensure you achieve your goal.
5) Be mindful of your daily activities.
Mindfulness is the practice of being self-aware throughout the day. It’s working hard to stay in the moment rather than letting your thoughts wander. Mindfulness takes hard work and practice, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right away. Smartphone apps like Headspace, Calm, and The Mindfulness App can help you learn how to practice mindfulness. From there, you can use the skill to be aware of when you’re doing your bad habit.
6) Replace a bad habit with a good one.
Many people successfully break a bad habit by replacing it with something different. This is especially helpful for things like eating junk food. Instead of eating chips after dinner snack on something like fruits or nuts instead.
The longer you repeat the new behavior the easier and more habitual it will become. If you keep up with the journaling you’ll also start noticing its positive effects, such as weight loss or having an easier time falling asleep at night.
7) Set reminders on your phone.
Once fully aware of the emotions and behaviors surrounding a bad habit you can set reminders on your phone to do something different. For example, if you find yourself scrolling through social media every night and struggling to fall asleep, set a 9 p.m. reminder to turn off your phone and do some deep breathing for 20-30 minutes before bed.
8) Accept you won’t be perfect.
Mistakes and slip-ups happen and that’s okay. Know that you may have a weak moment and fall back into an old habit you’re trying to break. Forgive yourself and move on. Eating candy one night out of the week after dinner doesn’t mean you have to give up. Make a note in your journal and mind, and do better the next day.
9) Switch up the environment.
If you’ve successfully identified the triggers, you can also change the environment surrounding them. Say, for example, you want to stop ordering unhealthy takeout for dinner. Consider filling your refrigerator with healthy meals that are easy to make instead. Diet-to-Go offers delicious, chef-crafted meals that you just have to heat and eat. It’s an excellent option if you prefer to avoid cooking or are strapped for time.
10) Reward your success.
It takes time to break a bad habit, but when you do, celebrate it! As you start to notice yourself doing it less and less, reward yourself with something like a new outfit or accessory you’ve wanted for a while. Honor your achievements along the way. You worked hard, and you deserve it!
No matter how challenging you think it might be, you are more than capable of overcoming a bad habit. Try these tips to break it once and for all!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.