How To Break A Bad Habit

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Habits can be hard to break. Partly because they are so deeply engrained in our brains due to constant repetition. If you have a bad habit you are trying to break, try these steps.

1. Define The Change

Broad goals like “be healthier” are great, but it’s not specific enough for you to set goals to focus on. You need to pick specific behaviors that are achievable. For example, if you smoke half a pack of cigarettes per day, try to start by cutting down to 1-2 per day until you can cut the habit completely. Having a clear picture of what you need to accomplish will help make your goals real.

2. Replace “I Can’t” With “I Don’t”

The study concluded by the Journal of Consumer Research found that participants who used the phrase “I can’t” chose to engage in a bad habit 61% of the time. On the other hand, the participants who repeatedly said “I don’t” while in the study only chose the habit only 36% of the time. The implications of this one study may be profound for those trying to cultivate good habits . By framing temptations around the idea that there are some things you simply “don’t do,” making it less easy to fall to temptation.

3. Know Your Triggers

Understanding why we engage in bad habits can help alter them. Try asking yourself these questions: How do you feel immediately before you partake in the bad habit? Or, is the habit about the action or the feeling that follows it. Every time you engage in your bad habit, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Jot down a few notes to help yourself notice patterns in your behavior to help identify what changes need to be made.

4. Take Your Time

Your body and mind is used to the routine of the bad habit. It took you time to get to this point, so it will take just as much time and effort to reverse it. Be patient with yourself and focus on improving incrementally. These more achievable milestones will make the shift less daunting.

5. Measure Your Progress

Once you have a plan, make sure to stick to it. Every week, sit down and evaluate how your progress has been. Make adjustments along the way if you find things are not working. After several weeks of tracking, assess your results and see where you stand. You can always re-work your plan to make it more effective!


Need some help breaking a bad habit? Try talk therapy.