Whether it’s smoking a pack a day, cursing too much or overeating, everyone seems to have a nasty little habit. Follow these practical steps for breaking bad habits and you’ll be living a happier, healthier life in no time.
Examine Your Motivation
If you’re trying to change for someone else, you’ll never be as successful as you will be if you’re making a change for yourself. Even if someone else is pushing you to break a bad habit, take the time to understand the problem and determine if it’s something you genuinely want to change. Once you’re ready to commit to the change, your most important source of strength will come from within.
Define the Problem
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you’d like to change about yourself. Instead, focus on the one thing you most want to improve in your life. Don’t dwell on your shortcomings or wallow in insecurity. Remind yourself that you have the power to control your own destiny through careful thought and action. Don’t get distracted by the things you can’t change – analyze the problem thoughtfully, then concentrate on the steps you can take to better yourself.
Set Reasonable Expectations
Your bad habits didn’t form overnight, so you can’t expect to break them overnight. Think about your habit as a pattern of behavior. Even if you can’t quit “cold turkey,” you can still change by choosing not to engage in the behaviors you’re trying to avoid. Each time you decide against the habit, you take another step closer to breaking the cycle completely.
Make a Plan
Scientists say it takes at least 21 days to form a habit, so it will take at least that long to break one. Do research on how other people have been successful in breaking the same habit and develop a step-by-step plan based on their victories. Address the problem in both the short term and the long term. Set daily goals for how you will avoid your habit, but also think about how the habit will affect you months and years down the road.
It’s natural to want to keep your struggle a secret – if you fall back into your old habit no one will ever know you “failed.” But if you’re really committed to breaking your habits, it’s important to let your friends and family know. Not only can they offer support and encouragement, they will add accountability to your goal.
Move on from Mistakes
When you make a mistake or slip back into your old habits, don’t let it distract you from your goal. If you skip a day at the gym, don’t beat yourself up. Just focus on getting back into your workout plan the next day. If you smoke one cigarette, don’t use that as an excuse to smoke a whole pack. Breaking habits isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor – it’s about changing your life, one moment at a time.
Breaking bad habits is a long, tiring process, so it’s important to celebrate small victories along the way. Pay attention to details, like how many days you’ve avoided the habit or how many new things you’re doing instead of the habit. When you reach important milestones, reward yourself with a treat and take time to reflect on your accomplishment.
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