Bad Habits. Everyone has them. Some bad habits can be life-altering to both individuals and those who love them. They take a toll, both mentally and physically on those who are bound by them. The good news is: bad habits cannot only be broken… they can be replaced with good habits for the health and benefit of all.
Bad habits are difficult to break because they are deeply wired by constant repetition. And when that habit incorporates an element of pleasure, (such as with instances of porn or drugs) our motivation to discontinue the behavior is greatly diminished. Diminished… but not removed entirely. We still know that what we are doing is wrong. We still feel guilty about doing it. And deep inside, we still want to be free.
How to break a bad habit
- Identify the specific behavior you want to change. This is where you need to be as laser-focused as possible. The more specific your language about the bad habit you want to change, the greater the odds of success. If you generalize (“I want to reduce my smoking”), you will never achieve much – as you haven’t defined the specific metrics of health that you wish to change. Far better to say, “I want to lose 5 lbs this week”, or “I want to reduce my video game time by 1 hour each day”.
- Identify the specific positive behavior you are going to replace the bad habit with. It’s not enough to just clean out the bad. You have to be just as specific about what good habit will replace the vacancy left by your effort in step #1.
- Identify the triggers. Understanding how and why you make decisions that lead to negative behaviors is critical to overcoming bad habits. Triggers typically take the form of emotional reactions to situational or circumstantial happenings. You see the refrigerator and are reminded that’s where the cold beer lives. Or maybe you got into an argument with your significant other, and now you feel like you need to drink to numb the pain. Peel back the layers of WHY you do what you do will help you reverse engineer the problem and backfill with a healthier solution.
- Take small steps. Small changes make a huge difference. Any commercial pilot will tell you – a 1-degree difference in the GPS system of a flight from LA to New York may have you landing in Miami! Your goal shouldn’t be to become perfect… that’s unrealistic. Break down big goals into practical steps, and take it slow and easy.
- Celebrate your victories. As a species, we all love rewards. This is no different for you as you break away from the bad habits and move into the good ones. Reward your progress often. Tell those who are close to you about your successes. You’ll find that they are just as interested in your growth as you are. For every day you’ve successfully squashed a bad habit, drop $1.00 (or $10.00) in a jar. In just a short amount of time, you will have enough to do something special for yourself.
- Never give up. One of the most important lessons in overcoming bad habits is learning that you are probably going to fall down once in a while. But it’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Remind yourself of why you are doing what you’re doing… and get back on track! There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, fall down seven times… get back up eight.
Bad habits can be difficult to shake on your own. A New Outlook Counseling Services stands ready and willing to help walk you through the process.
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