How To Change Your Bad Habits (The Easiest Way)
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Bad habits can be a real pain in the butt if you don't know how to get rid of them.
In this article, I share a very simple way to turn your habits into your friends, instead of your enemies.
The solution is simple, yet it requires patience and persistence like many other things.
In essence, your habits are you, and the way you live your life are your habits.
So taking the time and effort to control that can mean a huge improvement in your life.
To change your habits you've got to understand human psychology and what causes a person to make a decision or create a habit.
If you try to fight your bad habits by simply resisting them and trying to eliminate them with brute force, you'll lose.
Instead, you've got to be wittier and "fight smart not hard".
So, what is that simple solution your asking?
I'll tell you, I promise, but first let's define what exactly is a habit so we can better understand what we are dealing with.
As defined in Wikipedia:
A habit (or wont as a humorous and formal term) is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.
The American Journal of Psychology (1903) defines a "habit, from the standpoint of psychology, [as] a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience."
Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks.
Habits are sometimes compulsory. A 2002 daily experience study by habit researcher Wendy Wood and her colleagues found that approximately 43% of daily behaviors are performed out of habit.
New behaviors can become automatic through the process of habit formation.
Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioral patterns which humans repeat become imprinted in neural pathways, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.
A 2007 study by Wood and Neal found that when behaviors are repeated in a consistent context, there is an incremental increase in the link between the context and the action.
This increases the automaticity of the behavior in that context. Features of an automatic behavior are all or some of:
-lack of awareness
So put simply, a habit is a behavior that you do repeatedly and unconsciously most of the time.
And the reason for it is to improve the efficiency of your actions.
Instead of using all your attention on that routine action, it becomes automatic and you can focus on something else.
So a habit is formed from a repetitive behavior, and that helps us understand how we can create good habits in our life by repeating them consistently they will become automatic or a habit.
But how do we get rid of the bad ones we don't want?
Let's get back to Wikipedia again:
A bad habit and how to deal with it as defined by Wikipedia:
A bad habit is an undesirable behavior pattern.
The sooner one recognizes these bad habits, the easier it is to fix them.
Rather than merely attempting to eliminate a bad habit, it may be more productive to seek to replace it with a healthier coping mechanism.
Many techniques exist for removing established bad habits, e.g., withdrawal of reinforcers—identifying and removing factors that trigger and reinforce the habit.
The basal ganglia appears to remember the context that triggers a habit, so habits can be revived if triggers reappear.
Recognizing and eliminating bad habits as soon as possible is advised.
Habit elimination becomes more difficult with age because repetitions reinforce habits cumulatively over the lifespan.
According to Charles Duhigg, there is a loop that includes a cue, routine and reward for every habit.
An example of a habit loop is TV program ends (cue), go to the fridge (routine), eat a snack (reward).
The key to changing habits is to identify your cue and modify your routine and reward.
So what we learn after reading all that is that a bad habit isn't simply eliminated.
You don't resist it and it goes away, but rather you identify the trigger for it and then replace your reaction to it in a way that still answers your need but in a healthy way.
So, to give you an example other then what Wikipedia gives, let's say you are a smoker and you know it's not healthy and you want to stop smoking.
You probably tried throwing away your cigarettes several times and trying not to touch a cigarette as much as you can.
But it didn't work because when you started feeling you're not satisfying your need you became grouchy and got back to smoking again.
So, what we need to do is identify what triggers us to smoke:
Might be stress
Whatever the reason we need to become aware of it and understand why we react the way we do, what do we get by smoking that's related to those triggers?
So for examples:
It might relax us if we are stressed
It might just pass the time if we are bored and give us something to do
After identifying our the reason we do what we do, the next part is replacing that reaction with another one that's good for us and provides the same benefits.
So for example:
Instead of smoking to relax, we might simply breathe deeply a few times, close our eyes and just stay still letting our body relax.
Instead of smoking when we are bored, we can use our time to learn something new by reading an article, watching a video, etc'.
At first, it might feel unnatural, since it's not our usual reaction and behavior but if we stick with it for 30 days or more, it will form a connection in our mind, making that behavior automatic, a habit.
It's important that you also reward yourself when you succeed in this action of replacement and penalize yourself when you don't.
It's also advisable that you use others to help you with this by holding you accountable and maybe taking the same journey of change together.
There is strength in a group.
It's also important you write everything down, from the trigger, the reason you react to it that way, and the way you can react to it differently.
Also, write down the reason why you want to change that habit.
Print all of that and hang it somewhere you can see it each day.
This will help keep your mind focused and prevent you from getting distracted and ditching the process.
Again stick to it for at least 30 days and reward yourself after reaching that goal.
You can also split it to smaller rewards along the way to keep yourself motivated (for example after reaching 10 days, then 20, then 30).
If you want to further incentivize yourself, you can also penalize yourself for days you didn't stick to it.
For example, you can declare it on social media and donate 50$ for each day you didn't succeed to some charity and share the receipt to show proof.
Be creative and find a way to rewards and penalize yourself and keep true to that.
I wish you a lot of success in the process!
Thank you for reading!