We all have habits we wish to break, whether it be something as simple as nail-biting or more severe such as substance use. Unhelpful habits can harm our health, waste our time, or just be a general nuisance, giving us plenty of reasons to form better behavior instead.
However, not everyone succeeds in their journey to break a bad habit. Some fall right back into their habits right away, while others maintain their willpower. Those who are successful utilize many strategies to maintain their willpower and ensure success. This article will give you some of those tips to help you break unhelpful habits for good.
If you are interested in learning more about specific behaviors, or why we develop unhelpful habits in the first place, head on over to BetterHelp for more information and resources.
Stop Waiting For The Right Moment
The best way to delay healing unhelpful habits is by waiting for the perfect moment. Many people wait until New Year’s Day or until they have the perfect amount of willpower. However, these same people find they never get around to working on their habits, which only become more ingrained in their behavior.
The truth is that the perfect day will never come, so you better just start now. After all, there is no time like the present. If you wait for the stars to line up, you may never start the journey.
Prepare For Discomfort
Don’t expect breaking your habit to be easy. You have probably developed this behavior over a span of months, if not years, and your brain is conditioned to go to it when under stress or duress. Therefore, your brain and body will experience pain once they realize they can no longer rely on this habit.
This will be most noticeable when withdrawing from a substance. Whether it be sugar or alcohol, the brain gets used to its addiction and can be a bit cranky when withdrawal starts. As a result, you will probably experience many withdrawal symptoms, including headaches and irritability.
Furthermore, many habits occur as a way to cope with emotional pain. With the habit gone, you will be forced to deal with this pain head-on. Though it may be painful, these feelings need to be faced and processed to heal. Seek support from a therapist or trusted friend for help with this.
Set Realistic Goals
You may not be able to quit cold turkey. Furthermore, depending on what you are withdrawing from, it may not be medically safe to cut a habit cold turkey. Therefore, you should set realistic goals instead of pushing yourself to be perfect right away.
For example, if you are cutting out caffeine and usually drink four cups of coffee each day, try cutting down your consumption before quitting altogether. For example, you can start by cutting down to three cups, then two, then one, and then eliminate all caffeine from your diet.
Replace The Habit With A Better One
Creating healthy habits may make it easier to let go of the unhelpful ones. It gives you an option to fall back on and doesn’t make it feel like you are truly giving up something.
For example, if you are trying to cut out sugar, it may not be enough to just remove all sweets from your home. Instead, you should buy better alternatives, such as nuts and fruit, to have around the house to help you when temptation strikes. Without an alternative, it will be far too tempting to go out and buy sweets whenever you have a craving.
You won’t successfully break your habit if you keep tempting yourself. Therefore, you need to remove and prevent temptation as much as possible.
For example, if you are working towards cutting out alcohol and being sober, you will need to reduce any temptation to drink. Don’t bring alcohol into your home, and avoid that aisle in the grocery store altogether. You should also avoid going to bars and suggest hanging out with your buddies in locations that don’t serve alcohol. For those first few weeks or months (or maybe even years), you cannot tempt yourself by being around alcohol.
Mindfulness is an essential tool for breaking habits. Sometimes we break into habits mindlessly, not even realizing what we are doing. Mindfulness allows us to be more aware of our actions, making it easier to prevent the behaviors we are trying to break.
Furthermore, mindfulness makes us aware of why we do certain things. Many unhelpful behaviors form out of stress, anxiety, or other emotional pain. Being aware of this can make it easier to find the root of the habit and heal us of the pain that is causing the problem.
Monitor Your Progress
Monitoring your progress is a great way to remain motivated. Mark days on the calendar that you successfully resisted temptation or use an app to track your progress. Even when you have slip-up days, you’ll be able to see how far you have come, which will motivate you to keep going and prevent you from beating yourself up.
These journeys are rarely direct paths to success. Humans are creatures of habit and, therefore, will go back to those habits easily. This means you are likely to slip up or have bad days.
However, that’s okay. It’s very normal and human to slip up every once in a while. Almost everyone does when breaking bad habits. This is why it’s so important to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Focus on your overall progress, not the minor slip-up.
This is where monitoring your progress is so essential. Sure, you may have given in to temptation and had some cake today, but this is the first time you have had sugar in three weeks, which is a huge accomplishment.
Bad habits are difficult to break. However, there are many strategies that can ensure your success. With motivation, mindfulness, and patience, you can beat unhelpful habits and enjoy a happier and healthier life.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.