5 Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

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Bad habits come in many forms. From substance abuse to biting your nails to interrupting others when they’re talking, working on bad habits is an excellent way to improve your overall well-being. And whether it’s spending too much money at the mall every weekend or sipping on too much tequila every Friday night, bad habits exist in everyone’s life, so don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.

Being self-aware of your habits is key to replacing them with better ones, and it all starts with pinpointing both the good and the bad. Keep reading to learn more about five important steps you can take to break some of those bad habits that you’ve been wishing would go away.

1. Why Do I Want to Stop?

The first and most crucial step to breaking bad habits is to think about why you want to stop them? Without a good enough reason (the pro must outweigh the con), it becomes extremely difficult to stay disciplined enough to actually do what you need to do to replace bad behavior with a good one.

2. Identifying Good and Bad Habits

Think of any bad habits that you have and write them down. Now, think of good ones and jot them down as well. If you can’t think of any bad habits, you may want to take some more time to do some self-reflection because like it was mentioned before, EVERYONE has bad habits. Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. Maybe you’re not eating as much as you should, or maybe you’re eating too much. Perhaps you don’t have any kind of social life because you spend too much time working (yes, working too much can be a bad habit).

Once you have a list of at least two habits you have that are bad and two that are good, you can move on to the next step.

3. What Are My Triggers?

With your bad habits pinpointed, now it’s time to identify your triggers. What is it that causes you to keep your bad habits instead of tossing them to the curb? Is your mom overbearing and her constant need for control seems to push you toward abusing alcohol? Maybe you’ve even found yourself caught up in drug addiction. Does your work schedule interfere with your ability to eat healthily and get enough sleep every night? All of these bad habits can and will eventually translate into negative consequences in your life. But you have to self-reflect to get to the source of each bad habit, which isn’t the bad habit itself; there’s always an underlying cause. When you reflect on the triggers that influence your inability to break a bad habit, you can then begin to overcome those triggers (and ultimately put down the bad habit by replacing it with a good one).

Some of the more common triggers that people notice when trying to determine the source(s) of a bad habit loop are:

  • Morning wake-up routines
  • Power of location/environment on poor behavior(s)
  • Cell phone
  • Emotional state (depression, anxiety, mental health disorders, etc.)
  • Other people (none of whom you can actually control)

4. When Triggered, What Do I Do?

With your triggers identified, write down what it is that you do when they occur. Which triggers lead to which bad habits? You’ll also want to consider what triggers your good habits. These are the triggers you’re going to want to substitute in place of the bad triggers that cause you to have bad habits.

5. What Should I Do When I'm Triggered?

  • Recognize the trigger when it occurs (you tend to skip out on your daily exercise routine when it rains outside)
  • Establish a new routine (commit to reorganizing one room in your home when it rains and you can’t go outside to exercise)
  • Reward yourself (after you complete every new routine in full and avoid the negative consequences of your trigger, reward yourself)

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Bad habits come in many forms. From substance abuse to biting your nails to interrupting others when they’re talking, working on bad habits is an excellent way to improve your overall well-being.

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