We all have them. Habits are those quirky little things that we do without even thinking about them. Some habits are harmless, like nail biting, picking scabs, cracking our knuckles, etc. While they may be annoying to those around us, or even ourselves, these habits don’t really cause any harm. Other habits like smoking can potential lead to significant health risks for us and our loved ones. Regardless of what habit you’re trying to kick, there are ways to get out of the never-ending cycle of bad habits. Following these time-honored, traditional tips can help you start.
1) Become Conscious of your Habit
Long-lasting habits usually become a subconscious ritual that we perform without even thinking about it. For nail biters, their hand can already be halfway to their mouths before they’re aware it’s moving. Smokers can light up without realizing they even got a cigarette out of the pack. Habits become so hard to break because of their subconscious nature. It’s hard to stop doing something that you’re no longer aware you’re doing. So the first step to breaking a bad habit is to regain awareness that you’re doing it. Before you go to crack your knuckles, realize what you’re doing. That way you become aware of how often your habit comes up. Being conscious of bad habits is the first step to correcting them.
2) Write It Down
It may seem ludicrous to keep a habit journal, but writing something down can greatly impact how successful you are at stopping a bad habit. Write down when you performed your habit, and the events surrounding it for at least a week. Then go back and look at your “habit journal” and see if you notice any characteristics that stand out. Do you only bite your nails during periods of time when you’re stressed? When do you most crave that cigarette and why? Do you crack your knuckles when you’re anxious or nervous? Understanding the triggers behind bad habits can lead us further down the road to correcting them and adopting more positive behaviors.
Replacing a bad habit with another habit can seem counterintuitive. Why not just get rid of habits altogether. However, that’s easier said than done. Habits take a very short amount of time to develop, but require much longer time to let go. Replacing a potentially dangerous habit like smoking with a non-dangerous habit like chewing gum is one way to break the hold that a bad habit can have on you. If every time you go to bite your nails, you snap your fingers, you are not only making yourself more conscious, but you’re taking the first steps to alternating your behavior, which is a key in breaking bad habits.
It’s easy to promise ourselves that we’re going to quit smoking, or that our nail biting days are over. It’s another thing entirely to actually follow through. Accountability can help us get up and over the difficult hurdles faced in breaking a bad habit. By verbalizing to a friend or family member that you want to stop a certain action or behavior, they will start to notice when you mess up. Chances are, for more annoying habits, they’re already keenly aware of your habit, and can’t wait for you to quit. Having a person or group to hold you accountable, and point out your bad habit if it slips back into unconscious behavior can be instrumental in effecting change successfully.
While habits are difficult quirks to overcome, there are ways to cut the hold that they have on all of us. With a raised awareness, the assistance of family and friends and other tools that help us replace a bad habit with more healthy behaviors, bad habits can be a thing of the past. Regardless what works for you, only focus on changing one habit at a time. Overloading change can trigger bad habits to return as bad as ever by placing you under increased stress. By focusing on not taking on more than you can manage, breaking a bad habit one step at a time is a process that works.