How to break a bad habit for good: Learn 5 transformative tips 

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How to break a bad habit

Do you ever find yourself stuck in the loop of a habit that you just can’t seem to shake? Are you trying to find a way how to break a bad habit for good? It’s well-known that breaking bad habits can be tough. Sometimes bad habits make you feel stuck for years in what feels like an impossible battle of will. Humans are gifted with the ability to perfect nearly any behavior we choose to repeat. For better or worse, your life is shaped by engaging in habits, and sometimes you would feel the consequences of an accidental bad habit.

How to break a bad habit for good? The first step is understanding

While some habits contribute to your health and autonomy, such as driving or brushing your teeth, other habits, such as eating out every night or staying up late, make you feel powerless and stuck. Why does it take months to establish an exercise routine, while it only takes a week or two to start eating out for lunch every day? Because bad habits are formed by giving you immediate satisfaction. If you’re hungry, it’s far easier to run through the local McDonald’s drive-thru than it is to cook a meal at home. The speed and satisfaction of the bad habit reinforce the behavior, and soon enough, you find yourself eating out every day. 

This phenomenon is called the “habit loop.” It starts with a trigger, which can be anything that sets off the bad habit. For example, we’ll say the trigger is hunger.

The second step is the routine. This is the bad habit itself. In this case, the routine is going to eat at the McDonald’s drive-thru.

The third step is the reward– this is the feeling that encourages you to repeat the same routine again and again. In this scenario, the reward is a full stomach without the time or inconvenience of cooking a meal at home.

Good habits, on the other hand, take longer to reap rewards. You can work out every day, and not see any results for weeks or months. Progress is slow, and the work is hard. In a nutshell, you trade long-term happiness for short-term ease and comfort. 

How to break a bad habit with our 5 transformative tips

5 tips how to break a bad habit

The good news is that you are hard-wired to form new habits. If you commit to changing your lifestyle, you will eventually reap the benefits. You also have the ease and convenience of getting support from online therapists who are trained to assist you and teach you how to break a bad habit or form new habits.

It’s important to seek out support to stay on track when new healthy habits are fragile. Makin Wellness encourages you to reach out and get connected with an online therapist who is ready to help you tackle the challenge. 

To get a head start, here are 5 tips you can implement right now on how to break a bad habit.

1. Identity triggers and cues

The first step we want to cover in our 5 tips about how to break a bad habit is to figure out how it shows up in your life. If eating out is a bad habit, hunger is the cue. It’s important to identify what happens during your day that triggers the bad habit routine. This trigger is your opportunity to make a new choice and forge a new, healthy habit.

2. Develop alternative behaviors

As soon as you notice yourself engaging in a bad habit, redirect your focus to a different behavior.  “Habit replacement looping” is replacing one habit for another. Decide on an alternative behavior that is healthier and more geared towards your goals. That way, you know what to do when a trigger pops up. For example, if you feel the urge to smoke a cigarette, you can choose an alternative behavior like taking a walk to distract yourself. Eventually, you will replace one habit with another.

3. Building a support system

Sometimes, certain social groups can trigger a bad habit.  Say your circle of friends likes to go out and drink every weekend and you are trying to break the habit.  You might consider spending time with a different friend group on the weekends. Surrounding yourself with people who are working towards the same goals as you gives you a sense of comradery. People who push you to be your best will inspire you.

4. Practice mindfulness and self-reflection

Mindfulness is a practice of self-awareness. When you make a point to break bad habits, it’s important to stay aware of your behaviors and feelings. Pay attention to the sensations in your body when you give in to bad habits. You may find that you feel anxious or shameful. On the other hand, pay attention to how you feel when you choose new habits. You probably feel lighter and healthier. This awareness of how you feel allows you to be in control of your choices. 

5. Celebrating progress

Setting specific goals keeps you accountable and gives you something to look forward to. When you break bad habits, you may not have immediate gratification, and setting goals is an important way to reward yourself for positive changes. Celebrating small wins is a way to reinforce good habits and reward yourself for hard work.

How to break a bad habit by taking proactive steps

Even though It’s easy to form bad habits, they don’t have to rule your life. Taking the steps towards breaking bad habits and replacing them with good habits starts with awareness of what you need to change. After that, you can decide to replace bad habits with healthier ones. Even though healthy habits may not bring instant gratification, when you practice mindfulness and celebrate your goals, it becomes easier to stay on track.

If you need further support on how to break a bad habit, highly qualified mental health professionals at Makin Wellness are here to help. Makin Wellness offers you the convenience of therapy from the comfort of your own home, on your schedule, without commute times. Simply go online and fill out a brief questionnaire to get connected with a therapist or counselor ready to help. You can schedule sessions by phone or online– whatever works best for you.

It makes all the difference to get support from a professional. If you’re ready to get started on your healing journey, we’re here to help. 

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Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

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