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How To Stop A Bad Habit

Updated on October 22, 2011

All of us, one way or the other are plagued by an annoying habit or two that just wont let us go. You might be biting those nails till your fingers bled or it just may be something even more dangerous: like a drug problem or alcoholism, but bad habits are not only difficult to let go of, they usually get back after a while and you find yourself doing the same thing that you previously promised yourself not to do.

Bad habits like weeds that grow in flower beds, have to be sorted out regularly. The first step in actually stopping a bad habit is to sort out the roots of the habit. If you want to beat it, then first you’ll have to understand the basics of your own behavior.

You can analyze your actions and your reactions carefully and start with why you do what you do. If you find out the root cause of what ever you are doing, then you are very likely to get rid of it. But that isn’t all. Here are a couple of things that will get you started:

Talk Yourself Through The Problem

This may seem like a strange thing to do but you will find that if you talk to yourself about your problems, it is very beneficial. Ask yourself what starts the bad habit? Does nervousness make you bit your nails or are you excited when you can’t control the amount of food that you consume? If you sit and think about it and talk to yourself, you’ll find out the “thing” that starts your unwanted behavior.

For example if you have a bad habit where you avoid cleaning up the bathroom after each shower, and you come to the conclusion that it is because you can’t stand the thought of cleaning up after you have dressed up, then you will find that you can clean up the shower stall right after the shower before you get dressed and that way you can beat your bad habit by finding out what causes it.

Start Small

Once you find out the behavior that causes your bad habit, try starting in small steps and setting yourself goals so that you can measure your good behavior. Give yourself small incentives so that it is easily achievable. Set your self goals that can be met easily.

If for example you are a shop-aholic and spend too much, set a small target for yourself, such as “When I go out with my friends the next time, I’ll spend nothing over 10 $”. This may seem like a silly thing to do but in reality it is actually the smartest thing that you can do. By setting yourself small targets, you are basically setting targets that you will definitely meet, and there is nothing better for the morale then a met target

Reward Yourself

Stopping bad habits don’t always have to be hard work. It can be fun too! If you meet your targets regularly, you should reward yourself or give yourself small treats so that you morale remains high.

If for example you have a binge eating habit and you have been consistently meeting your set targets, you should reward yourself to a healthy and nutritious lunch or dinner from your favorite restaurant. This will ensure that you understand that you still have the control to decide when, how and how much you will eat and it will also keep your morale high.

Be Consistent And Keep Records

Another killer advice is this. Keep a record of your activities if you find it too hard to go by memory alone. It will keep everything in perspective and also help you maintain your goals much regularly and in a timely manner.

Keep Reminding Yourself

For any habit to stick, you will need to do it over and over again. Similarly, for any habit to ‘unstick’ you’ll have to remind yourself over and over again not to do it. Don’t think that by deciding that you need to stop something, you’ll easily quit a bad habit. During the time when you are actually going through the ‘habit-breaking’ process, you will have to tell yourself over and over again the benefits of stopping this bad habit and the reason that it is doing you so much harm.

Ask For Help

If you find that you have tried too many times without any positive break through, then you just might want to ask for help.

This also goes to everyone who has a drug or alcoholism problem. Most people who are facing problems with substance abuse find that it is easier and more beneficial in the long run if they ask a friend or a family member for help.

It is not possible for everyone to beat a bad habit on your own and you will find that even if your problem is not as big as a drug problem, if you tell your closest friend or even your mother or a sibling about your issues, you will receive a lot of courage and support. 

By asking a friend or family member you are basically ensuring that they a sort of ‘ an eye’ on you so that you receive a reminder and a warning once in a while from them so you are kept on track.

Following all of these simple steps should definitely help you a lot in the long term. But you need to remember one thing. You actually really need to break the bad habit in order to successfully do so. You can never pretend that you will stop something that you haven’t fully understood that you need to stop doing. It is only through self analyzing your motives, action and the reactions of your bad habits thoroughly that you can start breaking through.


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