10 Ways to Break Bad Habits and Transform Your Life

10 Ways to Break Bad Habits and Transform Your Life

We all have bad habits. Behaviors we know are detrimental to our health and wellbeing yet we can’t bring ourselves to stop.

Why do we continue to harm ourselves in this way? Perhaps because we are addicted to our particular vice, or we irrationally believe that we are the exception to the rule and will not experience any negative consequences. Or maybe we just lack the motivation or willpower to break the cycle.

What is your bad habit? Maybe you are addicted to your phone and can’t put it down regardless of its impact on your mental health and personal relationships. Maybe you consume excessive alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. Or perhaps you have a problem with drugs that you desperately want to kick.

Whatever your habit may be, there is a solution. There is a huge history of people successfully beating their addictions and turning their life around. All you need to succeed is a plan and the will to make it work. The journey will be difficult, but the destination will make it all worthwhile.

To help you get there, here are ten ways to break bad habits and transform your life.

Understand your why

What is the reason you want to break your habit? Is it because you want to improve your health? Or maybe because your behavior is negatively impacting your relationships with friends and family. Whatever your habit, it is important to understand the reasons for your decision to change your life. This way, you have a goal to focus on. You can gain an idea of what your life will look like when you eradicate your habit and this will keep you motivated when you’re struggling to carry on.

Write a list of a few of the reasons you want to change, and keep it somewhere visible where you can always remind yourself of your intentions. Pin it up on your fridge, save it as your phone background, or even tell a trusted loved one so they can remind you regularly. Whenever you’re having trouble breaking the habit, just look at your reasons and your “why” will prevent you from falling back into your old ways.

Identify your triggers

Most habitual behaviors have triggers. A trigger is a stimulus or set of circumstances that lead to you indulging in your habit. For example, perhaps you always look at your phone when you are bored or feeling awkward. Or maybe you always drink in social situations where you don’t know anyone. By tracking your habit, you can identify situations in which you are more likely to engage in your troublesome behavior. As a result you can make a plan in advance whenever such a situation is due to arise. With forethought you can avoid engaging in your bad habit and can find a healthier alternative.

Use your support network

Breaking habits is incredibly difficult, but there’s no reason you have to go through this alone. Your closest friends and family members will be happy to help you, but they can’t do anything if they are unaware of your struggle. Talk to someone you trust and tell them about your bad habit. Explain to them your plans to change and how you intend to go about it. Just the mere act of sharing your intention increases your chances of success, as it makes you accountable for your actions.

Let your loved one know how they can help you, whether it’s by checking in now and then or just providing a listening ear and a supportive shoulder. Having people around you that love you and look out for you makes everything a million times easier.

Replace the habit

Habits are often reactive behaviors. They are responses to stressful or uncomfortable stimuli designed to provide some temporary relief. For example, we might look at our phone to distract us when uncomfortable thoughts pop into our head. Or we may drink or do drugs as a way to dampen the symptoms of depression or anxiety. But these habits are unhealthy and can cause great harm to your body and mind. Instead, why not find a more wholesome and healthy habit to replace it with?

Next time you feel the urge to whip out your phone and fuel your social media addiction, why not take out a book and start reading, or open a language-learning app and have a few minutes of practicing French. Instead of drinking alcohol, find a soft drink or non-alcoholic beer that you like the taste of. Replacing an unwanted behavior with a new behavior is much easier than going cold turkey and breaking the habit altogether.

Take it slow

Adopting an all-or-nothing mindset is unlikely to end well. If you try to go cold turkey, you may well succeed on the first try, but if you find yourself slipping up it can have a negative impact on your motivation and mental health. Instead, you should take it slow. Reducing your behavior somewhat is still an admirable objective. Start by trying to cut it out one step at a time. If you smoke twenty cigarettes a day, try to cut down to fifteen. If you spend eight hours on your phone each day, reduce it to five.

Once you have made this reduction, you can then start cutting it down even further. Gradual changes are much easier to cope with than a sudden one. Remember that every little bit will make a difference.

Leave yourself reminders

When a habit has become ingrained, it is difficult to break. Not only because you crave it, but because it is such a regular occurrence in your life that it’s easy to forget not to do it. That’s why it is a good idea to leave yourself reminders throughout the day. Change the lock screen on your phone to a note to yourself, or set alarms to give your memory a jolt. Leave notes up in key areas of your home or enlist a friend to send you a message at set times of the day. This will ensure you never unthinkingly slip back into your habit and keeps you alert to your behavior. 

Visualize the rewards

What will your life look like when you effectively kick the habit? What improvements will be made to your health, your relationships, and your happiness? Close your eyes and look deep into this imagined future. Try to visualize how much better things will be without this bad habit. Picture yourself in a triggering environment and the positive way in which you will react.

Seeing this future and realizing how achievable it is could be the motivation you need to keep yourself going and really make a go of breaking the cycle. Anything can happen if you want it enough.

Be kind to yourself

Great things tend to happen over time, and it’s unlikely you will experience success overnight. Kicking your habit could take weeks, months, or even years. And it may be an ongoing struggle you face for the rest of your life. You may suffer periods of relapse in which you fall back into your old ways, but you should never let these get you down or halt your progress. Life is a constant learning curve and we are just striving to be the best we can be.

Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you get things wrong from time to time. Just keep moving forward and try to constantly improve yourself.

Remove negative influences

Are there people in your life that fuel your bad habit? Friends that encourage your drinking, or unpleasant work colleagues who create stressful triggers. Removing these influences from your life can reduce your reliance on your habit, so it may be necessary to change the root cause first. Talk to your friends about your problem, or simply eliminate them from your life if there is no chance of them changing their behavior. Try to change your work situation by talking to your boss or finding a new career. You only have one life, so there is no reason you should put up with people or things that contribute to your unhappiness.

Seek professional help

Some habits are more harmful than others, and it may be that you need a little help to eradicate them from your life. If you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, there are so many support groups and treatments available. Your health is at stake so signing up for a rehabilitation clinic or detox program can be invaluable and potentially life saving. Look after yourself and take the necessary steps to make meaningful changes to your health and wellbeing.’

In summary, by following the ten tips listed above, you will dramatically increase your chances of breaking bad habits and transforming your life. Just remember to take it slow and be kind to yourself if you slip up. True change will take time, but it will be worth it in the end. Good luck on your journey to a better life.

Josie Smith
Josie Smith
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