How to Break Bad Habits and Change Them to Good Ones!

5 minute read
How to break bad habits

As children, we are often told to stop behaving in certain ways. That it’s a bad habit to bite our nails, slouch while sitting, or respond to a question out loud instead of nodding our heads. While we are constantly corrected, no one tells us exactly how to drop these actions for good. It causes these behaviours to flourish over time, affecting all aspects of life including our careers. This blog will not only explore the cause but also some well-known steps on how to break bad habits and reinforce good ones in their place. So let’s get started!

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What’s the Cause of Bad Habits?

what causes bad habits

Throughout the years, scientists have condensed their findings of human behaviour into three reasons why we develop bad habits and stick to them even when they are harmful to us:

1. We are Bored/Stressed

The most common cause of developing unhealthy habits is due to stress or boredom. Bad habits offer a way for us to cope with a boring or tense situation by serving as means of escape. 

2. We Feel Rewarded

Another reason why we prefer bad habits over good ones is because the former is much more stimulating. According to the Neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin Dr. Russell Poldrack, good practices like getting up early, taking a bath, and reaching the office on time turn into automatic responses and become monotonous after some time.

On the other hand, smoking, drinking, gambling, or spending too much time on social media releases dopamine in our bodies. This chemical causes craving to repeat unhealthy behaviours, making us feel “rewarded” when we do them again and again.

3. Our Brain Resists the Change

According to the Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School Dr. Luana Marques, trying to break bad habits causes the limbic system of our brain to activate the fight-flight-or-freeze response. It makes us see the good habit as a “threat” and go back to harmful but familiar routines.

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How to Break Bad Habits and Replace Them With Good Ones?

how to break bad habits

So the million-dollar question is: how does one break out of this cycle of unhealthy routines and redirect them into something that benefits us in the longer run? Here are some ways (not in a particular order) on how to break bad habits and replace them with good ones:

1. Identify Unhealthy Habits/Triggers that Cause Them

The first, most obvious step is to identify all your bad habits and what is causing them in the first place. Observe yourself when you are eating, drinking, or smoking too much, try to locate the exact reason why you’re doing it and make a list. 

2. Choose a Substitute for Your Bad Habits

Now that you have a list of your vices, choose a substitute the next time you repeat them again. Want to scroll through Instagram? Open up a book on the Kindle app and read. Getting an urge to smoke? Keep some healthy snacks with you to keep your mouth busy. Doing so will gradually make your brain adapt to these new behaviours.

3. Imagine Yourself Succeeding

While this technique falls under the “fake-it-till-you-make-it” category, it can help to a certain extent. Visualize yourself choosing the alternative to your bad habit, be it choosing a salad instead of french fries at a restaurant, or taking a walk instead of sitting down immediately after a heavy meal.

4. Ask Someone for Support

It requires a lot of discipline and self-control to transition to a healthy routine (no wonder we can never fulfil our New Year resolutions!). While we may give in to temptations every now and then in private, teaming up with other people trying to overcome the same challenges can help keep you on track.

5. Use “But” to Overcome Self-Criticism

It’s easy to criticise yourself when you slip up. Try to motivate yourself with sentences like these to keep you going despite the setbacks:

“I failed at this, but everybody fails from time to time.”

“I am out of shape, but I’ll be back to my fitter self in a few months.”

6. Be Prepared for Relapses

Of course, the road to evolving into our better selves is never smooth. Be ready to face and accept failures as you are determined to change your bad habits into good.

Breaking bad habits and changing them to good ones is not easy, but it is possible. You need to identify your triggers, replace the bad behaviour with a positive one, reward yourself for your progress, and be consistent and patient. 

By following these steps, you can overcome your bad habits and create new ones that will improve your health, happiness, and productivity. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. You can seek support from your friends, family, or professionals if you need help. You have the power to change your habits and your life for the better!

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Q.1. What are the 7 bad habits?

Ans: Here are seven unhealthy habits that affect your self-esteem and confidence:

-Comparing yourself to others.
-Letting your past influence your present and future.
-Paying attention to what others think of you.
-Always expecting the worse.
-Wasting opportunities.
-Neglecting yourself.
-Being critical of yourself.

Q.2. Can you break a habit in 21 days?

Ans: It’s a myth that one can break a habit in 21 days. Practically it takes a person between 18 to 250 days to break a habit.

Q.3. How do I stop my addiction habit?

Ans: Here are some steps to overcome your addiction:

-Identify your triggers.
-Ask why you want to change your habit(s).
-Ask a friend for help.
-Be mindful.
-Switch bad habits to good ones.
-Leave reminders to yourself.
-Prepare for setbacks.
-Keep track of your progress.

If you’re undergoing more serious addiction issues, it’s advisable to consult a health professional.

Q.4. How long does it take to break a bad habit?

Ans: Since the brain’s process for learning both good and bad habits is the same, it takes 30-60 days for the mind to learn how to break bad habits.

So this was all about how to break bad habits and turn over a new leaf to make space for healthier routines. For more such interesting topics on career counselling, stay tuned to Leverage Edu!

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