If breaking bad habits was a breeze, no one would have them, right? If you want to make it easier on yourself, you’ll need to swap a negative habit for a good one. Keep reading for tips to do just that!
How to Break Your Bad Habits by Replacing them With Good Ones.
Biting your nails. Swearing too much. Touching your face. Eating too much junk food. Whatever bad habits you have, research shows that the best way to break them isn’t just by trying to abstain from them through any means necessary. Instead, you need to actually replace them with good habits.
So, before you break out the bitter nail polish, walk around with mittens on, or install a lock on your fridge, try these tips below to totally retrain your brain.
Make a “bad habits” list and a “good habits” wish list
First things first, grab a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. In one column, make a list of all your bad habits that you want to change. Be really honest with yourself. Remember, this is just for you. No one else has to know that you secretly binge on ice-cream late at night or that those beautifully manicured nails are faker than a $3 bill!
In the second column, make your “good habits” wish list. For example, maybe you want to start eating more fruit or take more walks. Perhaps you even want to take up a new hobby, like knitting, to earn extra money selling your crafts.
Really think about what makes a habit “bad”
Once you’ve filled out both columns, really think about why the habits in your “bad” column are so awful for you. Don’t just say to yourself, “My mom always told me to stop biting my nails, so it must be bad,” or “Everyone knows eating a pint of ice-cream at midnight is unhealthy.” Think about how the potential drawbacks affect you, personally.
For example, we’ve heard over and over the last few months that we need to stop touching our faces. Hearing a doctor on TV talk about it is one thing, though. We need to put it in terms that we can really relate to if we want to break our bad habit. Ask yourself, “How will this affect my family if I get sick? Who will I leave behind? Is resting my face in my hand more important than living to see my child graduate?” It sounds over-dramatic but they’re all potential problems that can arise from your bad habit.
Prioritize your lists
It’s hard enough to break one bad habit, let alone all of them at once. So, decide which have the potential to cause the most harm to your life. Smoking and overeating can cause a myriad of horrific health problems, so they’re a good place to start.
If your habits are fairly non-life-threatening, though, prioritize them based on your motivation for stopping them. For example, you want to stop picking at your nails so your hands look great for your wedding day. Or maybe you want to stop saying “umm” and “uhhh” constantly so you sound more professional in a meeting. Or perhaps even just spend less time on your phone.
Identify your triggers
Now that you’ve decided which bad habits you want to work on first, it’s time to figure out why you do these things in the first place. Jot down your triggers next to each habit that you want to break. Do you bite your nails when you’re nervous? Eat too much when you’re stressed out? Touch your face because your hair keeps falling in it?
Set up your “disrupters”
Now is the time to break out that bitter nail polish, those mittens, or that fridge lock. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit extreme, but you get the point. Find ways to “disrupt” your bad habit before you can indulge in them.
You can also enlist friends and family to act as disrupters. Ask your spouse to gently remind you to take your hand away from your face, for example. Just don’t get mad at him when he does it. We can start to feel like we’re being nagged, even if they’re just honoring our wishes and trying to help. So, try to set up disrupters that don’t rely on other people if at all possible.
Swap in your good habits
A 2011 study found that implementing positive “counter-habits” can help you break a bad one. See, most of the time, we indulge in our bad habits completely on autopilot. We don’t even realize we’re biting our nails or touching our face. When you implement a positive alternative, your brain actually gets to choose between doing the negative or the positive. Of course, your new habit needs to be a worthy alternative, otherwise your brain will just ignore it.
That’s a super oversimplified explanation of the study, but bottom line, pick something that you’ll actually want to stick to. In other words, don’t decide to swap out your nightly ice-cream with broccoli if you can’t even stand the vegetable to begin with. Maybe instead try making this banana ice-cream (or “nice cream”) your healthier alternative.
Be patient with yourself
Just like you didn’t form bad habits in one day, you can’t break them instantly, either. If you falter, don’t beat yourself up. More importantly, don’t use it as an excuse to give up entirely. Just pick yourself back up and move forward. If you need more tips to turn bad habits into good ones, everyone is talking about this great book called Atomic Habits. Check it out below!
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Replacing bad habits is hard work, true, but it’s so worth it in the end, especially if that habit has the potential to shorten your lifespan.
Last update on 2022-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API