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10 Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

Good habits aren’t built in one day

If only we could wave our magic wands and life would be perfect! I would be on time, organized and efficient. Oh, if only a girl can dream. Nonetheless, breaking these bad habits is realistic if you’re ready. Here’s 10 steps to help you combat yours!

For one to create a lifestyle they’re proud of, they have to be purposeful. Purposeful in their choice of habits, routines and in the environment they create for themselves.  Which means, as far as good habits are concerned, the first step to creating good habits is conducting a self-analysis.

A self-analysis will help you take stock of your bad habits, triggers and identify the good habits you’d like to add to your lifestyle.  Here are 10 simple but incredible tips to help you live the life that you want to envision.

1. Know your Triggers

Stress, procrastination and boredom are major causes of bad habits. For you to break your bad habit you have to figure out which one of these triggers you. Then outline your bad habits.

Bad habits include but are not limited to:

  • Unhealthy snacking habits.
  • Excessive drinking.
  • Endless scrolling and social media consumption.
  • Smoking.
  • Watching TV, Netflix for long hours.
  • Shopping.
  • Biting your nails and fidgeting with your feet or fingers.

Personally, stress can translate to avoidance watching on Netflix or scrolling down the Tik Tok rabbit hole. I’ve learned to recognize the difference between entertainment and avoidance watching and take the necessary steps to get back on track.

While some habits like smoking are best cut off completely and not cold turkey, some require us to be mindful and recognize when eating moves from sustenance to a coping mechanism.

2. Change your Environment

Now that you’ve identified your triggers, it’s time for you to change your immediate environment to reflect the person you want to become. This might mean cleaning out the fridge and replacing your food with healthy snacks.

It can also mean buying books if you want to create a reading habit and placing the books on your coffee table.  Changing your environment may also mean cutting TV hours and having designated watching time so that you free some time for your good habits.

3. Replace the bad habits with good habits

In order for you to stay consistent with the habits you choose, choose habits that align with your goals. A person who wants to stay healthy and fit might take up running or swimming while one wants to be a better writer might take up reading and writing. Choose a habit that works for you.

Other good habits include but are not limited to:

  • Hiking, swimming or other outdoor activities.
  • Playing musical instruments.
  • Yoga
  • Cleaning the house and dealing with clutter.
  • Taking action on areas you have procrastinated on, say finances.
  • Painting and drawing.
  • Taking up a side hustle.

Choose a habit that aligns with your goals and you’ll not only enjoy it but you’ll also improve your life tremendously.

4. Start Small

When it comes to building positive habits, big lofty goals such as reading a book a week might scare you back into your bad habits. However, small consistent goals such as reading a chapter a day, writing 500 words a day or writing for 10 minutes can have incremental results to your mind-set.

Starting small and setting achievable goals when it comes to your habits communicates to your brain that you can do it, and you’re likely to build that positive habit.

5. Prepare for the Habit Change

This can be as simple as finding an accountability partner to hold you to your word, remind you of your goals and encourage you when you slip up. You can also prepare for the change by buying a journal and writing the different ways the change is affecting you, what’s working and what’s not working.

Other ways to prepare for the habit change are:

  • Buying gym or exercise clothes, a yoga mat or fitness equipment.
  • Looking for and mapping hiking and walking trails in your area.
  • Setting up your first appointment with a therapist.

You can also prepare for the change by writing down your habit loop. It might look like this:

Stress >>> Unaccounted hours of Netflix/ Excessive Drinking. This will help you understand your habit loops that bring you from cue to reward. With this understanding, you’re set to break the bad habits loop and create better healthy habits.

6. Add the good habits to your daily routine

We all have daily routines. Each day resembles the next day in that we have breakfast and if we’re lucky to have a job in the current health landscape, sit at our desk to work. We might log off for an hour at 1:00 PM for lunch before signing off at 5:00 pm.

Look at the habits that go well with your routine, incorporate it and it will be easy for you to adapt to the routine. For example, reading two chapters a day goes well with your morning breakfast or coffee. It might mean swapping Tik Tok for books but it will be worth it in the end.

Try different routines and see what works for you based on how you feel after each routine. A good idea is to watch YouTube and TikTok a day in the life videos to see other people’s routines. This will give you the routine you need or ideas to come up with your own routine based on your space and habits.

7. Be Consistent

A good way to ensure consistency and success is to focus on building one habit at a time. When you have mastered this habit and it’s second nature to you, you can then go ahead and add other good habits. 

For example, if your goal is to swap watching Netflix with writing, a simple goal of 500 words a day is achievable and is just right for you to consistently achieve on a daily basis. You can also incorporate a rewards system to help you be consistent. A reward system instils the urge to finish your tasks as you anticipate a reward for hitting your daily or weekly goals.

For example, you can reward yourself with your favourite meal after completing your weekly or daily writing target. You can also reward yourself by buying that cute journal or Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Write down your favourite simple pleasures and base your reward system off them.

8. Change your Space

Our brains are cognitive misers and will always follow the path of least resistance. That’s why we keep repeating the bad habits as we’ve created neural pathways in our brain that end up with us subconsciously choosing the bad habits.

In order to create new neural pathways and new habits, we have to change our immediate environment to support the person we want to become. For example, if you are more productive in a clutter free environment, incorporate ways to clean up after yourself.

You can also change your environment by:

  • Putting healthier food and water within reach.
  • Buying the books, you want to read way before you start your habit.
  • Creating an office space at home so you’re not tempted to ‘work from your bed.’

Another way to change your environment and space is to ensure you are living a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, staying hydrated, making healthy meals, keeping a clean space and a great sleep pattern will help you create and keep the positive habits.

By changing your environment, you reduce your cognitive load and support your brain in changing your habits and mind-set.

9. Seek Professional Help

When it comes to habits such as excessive drinking, smoking or eating habits, you might need to seek professional help. Counsellors and therapists are there to help you get to the root of the issue so that your behaviour and habit change is effective.

Moreover, going cold turkey on some of these habits can have adverse effects on your health so it’s best to seek professional guidance and have a healthcare professional walk that journey with you.

You can also join support groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or look for groups available in your area.

10. Prepare for Setbacks

The truth is, you’ll have bad days, regardless of how good and effective your routine is. Breaking bad habits isn’t easy so treat yourself with kindness and ride the highs and lows like a champion.

What matters is that you’re taking the necessary steps to change your life. Use these setbacks to understand your triggers better and why you lapsed. A great way to do this is journaling your experiences. 

Record the people, mood, actions and the location where the lapse occurred. By analyzing your triggers, you’ll be in a better position to reinforce the good habits.

Follow these ten simple steps to breaking your bad habits and you’ll manage to build habits. If your triggers lead you to the realization that certain people are the triggers; it’s okay to let them go or reduce the time spent with them. Remember to forgive yourself for your bad habits and setbacks, treat yourself with kindness and strive for good habits.

Lastly, review your daily, weekly or monthly plan to eliminate your bad habits every day, and look at your goals every morning to reinforce your new sense of purpose.

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