Last week I wrote a post about why positive habits are so important. However, those positive habits can be over shadowed by many bad habits. Let’s face it. We all have negative habits. We crack our knuckles, bite our nails, or forget to turn off the lights before leaving a room. It’s so hard to break those habits, and it takes even more work to make sure it stays broken.
How habits work
- Cue/Trigger – The location, time of day, people around, and feelings associated
- Routine – Actions that are in place daily
- Reward – Pleasure that comes after doing activity that cues us to continue the habit
Habits form because our brains have learned and then repeated something new because it gains something in return. When the activity becomes a habit, the decision making part of the brain stops responding and puts you in auto pilot. Most of the time, we aren’t actually thinking about what we are doing, we just do.
We get up in the morning, get dressed, brush our teeth, head out the door. We drive to work, pull into the parking lot and wonder, how did I just get here? Even driving to work everyday is a routine habit that you don’t always mindfully pay attention to. Luckily, are brains are trainable, and bad habits can be broken.
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How to kick that bad habit to the curb
Decide that you are going to kick this bad habit
- Make the decision that you are going to take the time to focus on kicking this negative habit. If you arent’ really sure you want to, or lack the motivation to do it, you will not break the habit.
Identify the target goal
- Take note of what you want to be the final goal of breaking this habit. Is it making sure you turn off all the lights at night before getting into bed without needing to get back up?
Focus on one at a time
- Do not make things complicated for yourself. The best strategy is to pick one habit you want to get rid of, and then focus on only that task until you feel you have changed your routine enough to move to the next habit. If you try to focus on too many, your focus will be lost and you’ll have a hard time giving yourself the rewards necessary to continue if you are meeting your goals at separate times.
Note what triggers the habit
- If you decide to stop cracking your knuckles, you need to be aware of when it happens and pay attention so you can determine what the cue is. Do you only crack your knuckles when you see someone else do it? Do you bite your nails when you are impatient waiting on someone? Find those cues so you can stop the behavior before it happens.
Keep a habit diary
- Create specific goals on how you’re going to get there, and make note in a journal that you can keep track of your progress.
Don’t go cold turkey
- Do not go cold turkey. If you completely decide to cut something out, it’s harder and causes more stress and anxiety which can be triggers to start the habit right back up depending on what it is. Be realistic with your goals that are small and easy to accomplish at first.
Set a reward system
- Write out where you can see it everyday, rewards that you can focus on as you get closer to breaking your bad habit. Start off small with small rewards and work yourself up to something you have been wanting or haven’t done in a long time that would bring you happiness when you really feel your habit being broken is part of your lifestyle, not just temporary.
- Constantly be aware of your surrounding. Take time to notice your actions as you take them, focus on why you do the things you do, and what comes after certain tasks. Familiar surroundings are habit cues, and the best way to break those cues is to change up your routine and disrupt the habit.
Replace the bad habit with a good habit.
- Take a different route to work, come home and clean up before you sit down at the TV, walk to the park instead of drive, or replace your coffee with cream with green tea.
When you self reflect on yourself and determine why you do the things you do, you can catch your triggers and self-improve yourself into who you want to be. What are some bad habits you have, and are you taking any steps to break them? Let me know in the comments! We all have them!
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