We all have them—those pesky bad habits that we know are holding us back from reaching our full potential.
These bad habits can be incredibly difficult to break. They often form over time, becoming a part of our daily routine without us even realizing it.
But the good news is, you can change. Bad habits can be replaced with good habits. Here are some evidence-based tips for how you can kick your bad habits and establish healthier ones.
Step 1: Awareness Training
The first step in kicking bad habits is to become fully aware of your bad habits and the impact they have on your life.
A good way to start is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, here in this moment. Most bad habits play out automatically. We repeat the same behaviors over and over again, often without even realizing it, despite how harmful they may be.
In this first stage, just try to observe yourself as you carry out the actions of your bad habit. Notice the movements you make, the thoughts that recur in your mind, and the moods you pass through.
Describe these details in a journal or notebook to deepen your awareness and understanding of your bad habit. Learn all the little muscular movements and subtle mind games that go along with it.
Step 2: Stress-Reduction Training
Many bad habits are connected to stress, so it’s important to recognize this connection and implement healthy stress-reducing techniques to prevent the onset of bad habits.
By reducing your stress in healthier ways, you will be less likely to engage in bad habits.
This could include things like:
● deep breathing exercises
● creative art
● dancing to your favorite music
● spending time in nature
Step 3: Response Training
Once you have a better understanding of the connection between triggers and responses, you can start to practice healthier responses.
Triggers like stress, boredom, or anxiety are often unavoidable, but you can establish better ways of responding to these cues.
Look for other activities that can satisfy the underlying need in a convenient way, without provoking the harmful effects of your fading bad habit.
Step 4: Rewards and Support Systems
Rewarding healthy and positive alternatives is better than punishing bad behaviors.
Punishing yourself when you do something wrong will only lead to more stress and a vicious cycle of self-harming behaviors.
Instead, find a safe and healthful way to treat yourself when you do something good. Even if it is a small reward, it will still help you reinforce your growing good habit.
Additionally, having partnerships and relationships for staying consistent and persistent in your efforts can be very helpful. Share your goals and progress with close friends and family to help you stay on track and hold yourself accountable.
Step 5: Remembering, Reflecting, and Adapting
Review and reflect on the progress you’ve made and the challenges you faced, and make adjustments as needed. You will need to continuously revise and update your strategies for reducing your stressors and responding to triggers.
You may also need to remind yourself on a regular basis of the reasons why you started the process. Your motivation to continue will likely lose some of its power as you face more challenges and obstacles. But by staying focused on the bigger purpose for why this self-transformation is so important, you will be able to refresh your motivation and keep moving forward toward your goal of a healthier life full of better habits.