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How to Get Rid of Bad Habits

Updated on June 19, 2013

Imagine you are sitting in a class next to a person who is biting his/her nails. Immediately, your focus switches to that person, and you are no longer included in the class discussion. Do you hate this? This is just one of numerous habits people deal with on a daily basis. Habits can often no need for this word here be defined as actions that someone repeats constantly and often does so unconsciously. Bad habits are usually those habits that are considered undesirable. They often have a contextual trigger, and are formed by repeating the same pattern over and over. Thus, in most cases they occur in a specific situation. There are numerous examples of bad habits, such as laziness, lying, smoking or being late. Breaking a bad habit is a process that takes time and patience and is incredibly difficult since as previously mentioned, habits are usually unconscious actions. Even though bad habits are difficult to overcome, there are a few steps that can ease that process.

The first step is to realize that you have a problem with bad habits and that you have strongly decided to get rid of them. It is crucial to take some time and consider bad habits as you would consider your qualities because they represent you equally. It is quite hard to realize what those habits are since every person is subjective when trying to observe him/herself, but when you make that step, everything else is easier. Every person needs to take an outside view of his/her life and identify what habits they need to change since only then can the process begin. Furthermore, dedication is crucial to succeeding in what you aimed for, in this case removing these undesirable habits. When a person decides to beat the unhealthy habits, it is necessary to be devoted and try the best one can do.

The second step is to choose one bad habit because it is more efficient to overcome one habit at a time. Bad habits are a problem everybody deals with, and as such, need time and effort to overcome. The best solution is to choose the habit you consider the most undesirable, and then focus only on that habit. If you concentrate on one particular habit, it will be easier for you since you would put all your efforts and concentration on achieving one goal instead of several. That can help you break the habit permanently since you would spend all your time dealing with that one habit.


The third step is to find a nice and a healthy habit to replace the bad one with since that would ease the whole process. Finding a substitute is an effective way to get rid of an unhealthy habit and it is easier than just cutting the habit out.

Completely eliminating a habit is much harder than replacing it with a more productive habit. Studies of people who compulsively bite their fingernails have shown that it is very difficult for them to completely give up their habit, and much easier for them to substitute biting with the more productive habit of grooming their nails. (Kraus 2004)

The fourth step is to find a reward system that would motivate you and persuade you to be persistent. Motivation is a factor that makes every goal in our life easier to achieve, and that holds true for this problem too. A Reward system helps our brain to determine what is worth remembering, and what is not. With time, your brain will remember what was worth doing and automatically do so without the reward (Duhigg 2012).

The final step is to cancel the reward system and test whether you overcame the bad habit. The purpose of the reward system was to motivate you, not to be a permanent solution, so the last step is to check whether you have achieved your goal. If you realize you have not got rid of the habit, return to the reward system and be persistent until you achieve it. If you want to overcome other bad habits you have, repeat this system for one habit at a time.

In summary, bad habits are difficult to overcome, but there are steps that can make that process easier. After a person identifies their bad habits, the following step is to choose one habit a person wants to change. The next step is to find a healthy replacement for the unhealthy habit, and, coupled with that, a person should employ a reward system. At the end, the reward system should be cancelled to check whether it has worked or not. This process certainly is time consuming and needs strong dedication, but at the end, it is worth it.


Duhigg, C 2012, How companies learn your secrets, New York Times, viewed 24 December,

Kraus, S 2004, How to replace bad habits with good ones: the science of habit management, Goal Setting, viewed 24 December,


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    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Great hub. I agree with replacing the bad habit with a good one, it's much more effective that way!