It is easy to let habits take control of your life. Your morning routine, afternoon snack, dinner plans, and bedtime are all based on patterns. But let’s explore how to quit a bad habit and make it last!
Habits are not necessarily a bad thing, as they provide our lives with structure. But some practices are not helpful, as they harm your long term well being.
Excessive smoking and drinking. Arriving at work ten minutes late. Procrastinating on social media and gorging on junk food. These are the habits we might like to quit.
Breaking bad habits is challenging but doable
New Year’s Eye rolls around, and you start to make a list of the changes you wish to make in your life. We have all been there! You may list your three or four worst habits and vow to never indulge in them again.
However, breaking a habit is not as simple as setting a New Year’s resolution. Below are ten tips showing you how to quit a bad habit and make it last!
Identify and prioritize the habits you want to change
If you are reading this post, it is because you have some behaviours that are causing you harm. Perhaps you are struggling to quit smoking, drinking, or binge eating. Maybe you are struggling to find a work-life balance.
Make a list of these harmful habits. Depending on the length of your list, prioritize the activities that you wish to quit immediately. It is tempting to try and eliminate all your bad habits at the same time, but it is setting yourself up for failure.
When I first committed to changing my negative behaviours, I attempted to quit all of them cold turkey. To say it was a mistake is an understatement. I fell off the wagon within days.
Luckily, I did not discourage myself and chose to attempt another strategy. I put all my focus on eliminating a single habit. When I felt confident that I would not find myself going back to that behaviour in a moment of weakness, I knew I was ready to try and quit a second habit.
Try a 30 or 60-day habit challenge
A 30 or 60-day habit challenge is an excellent way of attempting to eliminate a habit from your lifestyle. Think of it this way – the next 30 or 60 days of your life involve a single mission: quitting the behaviour on top of the list you wrote in step one.
When I tell most people about the 30 or 60-day habit challenge, they ask me if it is too short term. People do not want to break their bad habits for a month or two, they want to do it for the rest of their lives.
The challenge is about showing you that it is possible to live without your negative habits. Whether it is smoking, drinking, procrastination, or coming late to work, the challenge will show you that it is possible to eliminate that behaviour and go about your daily life!
Create realistic goals
There are positives and negatives to quitting cold turkey – and I always like to say that each person is different. I have friends who woke up one morning and quit smoking. They still do not smoke!
In general, cold turkey can create a “being good or bad” situation, as the slightest wavering from your goal means you fail and you’ve been bad. It can be easy to then fall off the wagon completely. Setting a realistic goal for your 30 or 60-day challenge can help to create structure and once you achieve it you can extend the challenge to 3 months, 6 months or even a year!
Say you want to lose weight. Perhaps you are 10 pounds away from your ideal weight. Instead of setting a goal that you will lose 10 pounds in two months, try doing a healthy eating plan or exercise regime for 60 days instead. So long as you stick to that range for 60 days, you win the challenge!
Learn about the habit loop
Negative habits, don’t come from nowhere. There is a cycle that takes place in your mind that causes you to indulge in a habit that you know is harmful to your body or life goals.
It is helpful if we refer to that process as the habit loop. It starts at the trigger and ends with the habit. Perhaps you binge-eat after a fight with your spouse. Maybe you drink excessively to celebrate the end of the workday. Others smoke each time they want to alleviate stress.
Understand the trigger that causes you to seek the short term satisfaction brought on by your bad habit. If you become aware of the trigger, you are in a much better position to not only quit a habit temporarily but permanently.
Write down your trigger points
If you are to quit any habit permanently, you must be 100 percent honest with yourself. It is no good saying that you smoke a pack a day or drink six beers a night even though you do not like smoking or drinking.
Admit that you receive some pleasure from the bad habit. Understand those trigger points – the moments when your mind tells you that it is time to have a cigarette or drink. The next time you face such a moment, write down all the relevant details.
Make a note that includes the following information:
– where you were at the time
– who else was present
– what were you doing
– how were you feeling at that moment
Do this for several days or weeks.
Pretty soon, you will have a lengthy list of trigger points. Now you can assess those moments to understand if there are any commonalities. Is there a pattern to when you seek to engage in your bad habit?
Try to replace those habits
When I was cutting down on drinking, my trigger point analysis showed that I drank excessively each time I met up with my girlfriends for happy hour. I would look forward to those evenings all week and throughout the workday.
Being in the company of my best friends made me happy. But I would also drink a fair few drinks in a couple of hours. Sometimes I would continue drinking when I got home.
What worked for me is not only committing to drinking less but replacing the habit with something else. “Dinner and drinks” instead of “just drinks” works! Eat more, drink less and feel better in the morning.
Want to know something? It worked! Pretty soon, I would not only count down the hours till I could drink with my best friends, but I also kept thinking about the incredible dishes on the menu at the bars we would visit. I would order a single cocktail, sip it for an hour, order a delicious appetizer, and have the best time!
Experiment with different actions and reward systems. Try to replicate the reward or high you are seeking through an activity that is healthier for your mind and body. You may not get the exact same satisfaction right away, but gradually, it will replace the habit that is stopping you enjoying your life.
Go easy on yourself
Not every step you take to break a harmful habit will be successful. You will fail more times than you can imagine. Be kind to yourself! The fact that you are reading this post and formulating a plan to break those bad behaviours is proof that you have the will to change!
If you do suffer a setback, chalk it up to a bad day. Vow to go back to your new routine tomorrow. Remember that quitting a bad habit is not a sprint, it is a life-long marathon. You may stand still or go backwards for a moment, but you will push on to the finish line eventually!
Discipline, not motivation, will see you through to the end
Motivation is fleeting, while discipline is continuously present. Quitting any negative behaviour requires a lot of control, as you will have days where you do not have the motivation to continue with your new lifestyle.
Do not count on motivation, as it is fleeting and unpredictable. You are a powerful and intelligent woman! Create your 30 or 60-day challenge, find new habits to break your present ones, and push through when you suffer a setback. If you stay disciplined, you will succeed!
Habits get a bad reputation, but they are an essential part of our lives. We must differentiate between practices that help you excel at life and habits that hold you back.
Armed with the knowledge of your bad habits and the above tips, you can make a clean break from unhealthy or unhelpful aspects of your life. It will not be easy, as quitting any habit takes a lot of willpower, discipline, and dedication.
But it can be done. I am living proof! Between binge drinking, smoking, and avoiding work until the last moment, I had the holy trifecta of bad habits.
I brought meaningful change into my life by breaking free of those behaviours. I understood why I was engaging in those habits, how they were harming my body and my life, and how I could break free from them.
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That’s how to quit a bad habit and make it last! I hope today’s post can do the same for you!