If you have ever tried to break unhelpful habits, you know what a challenge it can be.
It is so easy to get into a bad routine or start a bad habit. It happens without you even thinking about it. Then when you try to change it, it feels like an impossible task. And don’t even get me started on the effort you have to put in!
Is this the way you look at habits?
When you think about breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones in this way, you are actually making it a lot more difficult for yourself than it needs to be.
Common myths about breaking bad habits
1. You need
willpower to break bad habits
You don’t need to have incredible amounts of willpower to break a bad habit. If you rely solely on willpower to change your behavior guess what will happen. Yep, the first time that you hit a snag, or your willpower weakens (for whatever reason) it is the end of your new habit.
2. It takes 21 days to form a new habit
It does not take 21 days to make or break a habit. It takes…as long as it takes. Some habits, like taking the stairs (at least once a day for starters), or having a glass of water with your meal, can be started and kept up quite easily, others take longer. It all depends on you, your circumstances and the habit.
3. There is a single magical strategy to break bad habits that work for everyone
We are all wired differently. We have different needs, opinions, abilities
A strategy to break bad habits
There are many ways to skin a cat, and when it comes to habits, it is no different. We all learn and grow in different ways.
However, there are a few universal truths that apply to everyone when you want to break bad habits.
You need to be aware of and intentional about the habit you want to change. It will help if you eliminate as many triggers as you can, at least in the beginning.
When you link the new habit to another (good) habit, it can help you remember to do it. And when you do it enough times your new behavior WILL become a habit.
1. Identify the bad habit you want to break
Habits are automatic actions that start to happen once we do the same thing over and over and over.
Our actions become habits once our brain decides this activity is repeated so often it can go onto the automatic storage slot for often performed activities.
If it has ever happened to you that you can’t remember something (like whether you took your vitamins this morning, or the road you took back to your house from the office), this is the reason why.
You can’t remember because you do these things without THINKING about it.
So, if you want to break a habit you first need to bring the habit to your awareness and get intentional about it.
2. Get clear about what triggers the bad habit
Spend some time to see if you can figure out how and when this bad habit shows up.
Is it at a certain time of day: after breakfast, when you get home from work, or at 2:30 in the afternoon?
Is it during a certain event: speaking to your boss, while you are watching tv, drinking coffee or getting ready for bed?
What do you get as a result of this habit: it soothes you, relaxes you, saves you time, saves you from explaining yourself, and saves you from thinking about your life.
3. Find a replacement habit
Decide on what new habits you want to build instead.
You will have more success when you replace one habit with another rather than just stopping a habit. If you try to break a habit without replacing it, you leave a void which,
Make a decision to really give this new habit a fair chance. Now link this to the cue or trigger you identified in the previous step.
Think about what resources you need to help you build this new habit. How can you remind yourself to do this new habit consistently?
And here is another tip, if you skip a day, it’s not the end of the world. You haven’t destroyed any chances you might have of improving your life. Just carry on where you left off.
Keep at it until it becomes second nature
Your brain AND body will start to enjoy the new rewards that you get as a result of your new habit.
Before you know it, it will be moved into that special automatic slot in your brain. And when that happens, you won’t have to think about it anymore, because your new behaviour will have become a habit.