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How to break habits Change attitude and form good habits

Updated on August 30, 2011

How to break habits?

Habits are the result of repetitive action. The more often an action is repeated, the stronger the habit. Almost every thing we do is repeated many times over; we are creatures of habit. Habits go unnoticed in people and sometimes add to an individual’s style, or they become a part of a person's personality over a period of time.

Forming a habit takes time; studies say that it takes about three weeks or twenty one days to form a habit. In the next seven days, the newly formed habit is firmly fixed in your subconscious mind. Just as habits are formed by repeating certain actions over a period of time, so also habits can be broken by not doing certain things over a period of time. Sounds simple, but may not be so easy at first. It calls for some hard work, and may be a little heartache.

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Breaking bad habits 

All habits are not bad. In fact most of our daily routines are made up of different habits. Picking up the newspaper, putting the kettle on and making a cup of tea in the morning are all habits that have become routine over a period of time. Habits are quite helpful and actually make our day easier, as we do most of these routines without giving it much thought. We are on auto pilot and can multitask efficiently- all thanks to our well formed habits.

Sometimes, a few habits become annoying or even offensive to others. Such habits may be compulsive in nature; and come in the way of socializing or effective functioning. These are what we term bad habits and are the ones that we would like get rid of. They are not like addiction or mental health issues because they still are under the control of the individual concerned.

Restless legs, nail biting, thumb sucking, bed wetting, smoking or grimacing when thoughtful, certain gestures that may be considered inappropriate, lying, stealing, cluttering are some of the habits that are considered unacceptable. All of us have these to a certain extent, but only when they go out of acceptable limits and are noticed by others or even disturb us, they are considered problematic.

Breaking habits mean changing attitude and behavior

Before we go into discussion about overcoming habits, we need to understand why habits need to be broken. If a student is restless and constantly moving his/her legs, other students get disturbed, the concentration of the individual is affected, resulting in poor performance, getting bullied by fellow students, or even teachers pulling up the student etc…

Breaking an unacceptable habit not only improve ones level of social acceptance, but also makes life easier for the individual. When social acceptance is high confidence also grows.

Identify the problem

The motivation to break a habit increases when the habit is named and all direct and indirect negative aspects of the habit are clearly listed. Writing it down makes ones intentions clear, leaves no room for excuses and is an open admission of the fact that this unacceptable behaviour needs to be broken. Give yourself twenty days to a month; it takes that time to break a habit and stabilize your behavior.

When to break the behavior?

Right now would be the best answer. Procrastinating will only make the habit stronger and harder to break. A habit can be broken when it is still new, with more ease than those habits that have become a part of an individual’s personality. Unacceptable habits can be broken and new routines set in place very easily in children. Don’t give up yet. Nothing is impossible. Throw that out of your vocabulary.

Garner support

Form Good habits and make the change

Make the decision

You need to make the decision for yourself. No amount coercion or compulsion from others will work. This is your decision and time to act. If you are faced with the fear of failure, then you need to handle it then and there. This is the biggest obstacle to your success. You can program your mind for success easily. You have all the resources you need.

List down all triggers for the habit

Triggers are those that cause that habit to be repeated. An example for this would be wanting to smoke after a meal , or at a party, when with friends. There will be so many instances when one would automatically reach out for a cigarette during the day. This listing helps you to combat the problem and plug the loopholes.

Two ways to break a habit

Cold turkey and replacement or forming a new habit

There are two ways to break a habit; one is to not do it at all. Quit smoking immediately. This is requires a lot of will power. There is another way to do this- to break the habit that is unacceptable, develop a new habit. The new habit needs to be acceptable behaviour, or this will become an additional problem. One cannot replace a cigarette with marijuana. Instead, chew on some gum, or some flavorful mouth fresheners. Now the list of triggers that was written can be put to use. In all the places that one would automatically reach out for cigarettes place the substitute, making sure that one's own pockets are loaded. It is important that the substitute is pleasurable; when a good feeling is attached to a new behaviour, it is easy to develop it. This takes off the strain and the emotional upheaval associated with kicking away the crutch ( a habit is an emotional crutch).

Break habits change attitude and form good habits

Be alert

Since habits are automatic behaviors, they just creep in without the individuals being aware of them. It is important to consciously track actions and when one find oneself doing the same act, it is important to stop immediately. ‘Just this once’ may be the end of one’s dream to kick the habit.

Taking cover under excuses is permission for the habit to stick around. Feeling sorry for oneself, wallowing in self pity takes only around the same pit again and again.

Get support

It takes a lot of effort and pain to break an old habit. It is easier to enlist the support of family members or others we hang out with. They encourage good behaviour and correct one when the individual falls back. It is easier for a third person to monitor personal behaviour, rather than the individual himself. Making them partners in the effort would be a more practical approach. If one is trying to overcome laziness, it would be worthwhile to get someone to jog or do some activity with.

Self affirmation

Use self affirming statements in the present tense to motivate yourself ever day. Using positive affirmation statements everyday is creating a positive habit. The power of positive habits in breaking negative or unacceptable ones is unparalleled. This is a method of programming your mind to achieve anything. Statements like these will help:

I am an overcomer.

The habit of ….. has no hold over me.

I am in control over my actions and behaviour.

I am responsible for all that I do.

Set your thinking right. Repeat this as often as possible to yourself, believe what you say. Believe in yourself. Using other techniques like visualization and goal setting (dealt in detail in the another hub) anyone can overcome unacceptable habits.

Watch your attitude

Set your attitude right, negative attitudes precondition you for failure. Change is hard, but it is the only constant in life. Get rid of the negative thoughts that you have entertained about yourself. Don’t give up without even trying it out. Focus on winning, not on other people's opinions.

Don’t give up

Breaking a habit is not easy. Prepare your self mentally to fight all the way. This fight is hard because it is your pleasure feelings against pain. Don’t give up, if you slip start over. If you put your mind to it, you can do it.

Nothing is impossible!!


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