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How to Kick a Bad Habit

Updated on July 31, 2013

We all have them and some of us even enjoy them. Bad habits are, unfortunately, a part of life. There are, however, things you can do to stop that nasty habit from becoming a permanent fixture in your life. Regardless of the length of time you've been practicing the habit or the strength of the grip it has on you, where there is a will there most assuredly is a way.

Forming a Bad Habit

The popular theory is that it takes 21 days to form a bad habit. While 21 days may be a sufficient amount of time to gain comfort with a new behavior, many find that it can be months and sometimes years before they no longer have to consciously remind themselves of the new choice they've decided to make. This is very important to understand because those conscious decisions are essential to breaking that bad habit. In addition, research suggests that the more you practice a habit (whether good or bad) the more difficult it is to break. The good news is no matter how difficult it is to break, every habit can be broken... eventually.

Tips For Breaking a Bad Habit

There are some steps you can take to increase the likelihood of success when trying to break a bad habit. These are:

1. Stay Conscious. Acting without conscious thought will quite often have you engaging in that bad habit behavior quickly. Try to remain conscious of your decision to change the habit and consciously avoid the behavior. If you find yourself engaging in the behavior, immediately stop it once you notice it. You may find that you only engage in the behavior at certain times or for certain reasons. Identifying these times and reasons can help you remain conscious of the behavior before you even begin to engage in it.

2. Write it down. Writing something down is one of the best ways to remember it. Don't just write down the behavior and how you want to stop it. Also, write how it makes you feel, what you think about when you engage in the behavior, and even any stories or events surrounding the behavior. This is another great way to keep that behavior in your conscious mind.

3. A pros and cons list may be helpful. Remembering what the behavior is contributing to your life (both negatively and positively) raises awareness and may help you to stop your bad habit.

4. Substitutions and replacements. Finding a healthier or better alternative to your bad habit can often be a helpful way of decreasing your desire to engage in the bad habit. This can be a temporary or a permanent measure depending on how long you find it helpful.

5. Distractions. If you are successful in identifying a trigger to your bad habit, you may be able to distract herself until the desire to engage in the habit dissipates.

6. Involve others. Getting help can often keep you on the straight and narrow. Enlist the aid of your family and friends. Ask them to bring it to your attention when you are unconsciously engaging in your bad habit. If they are prone to the same bad habit, ask them not to do so in your presence and not to encourage you to engage with them.

7. Set realistic goals. Cold turkey may not be the key and three days may not be long enough to completely stop your 15 year bad habit. Make sure your goals are realistic.

8. Allow from some slips (but not too many). There will be time when you will unconsciously engage in your bad habit and not realize it until its done. It's okay. Just press on and understand that it is not an excuse to give up.


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