How to free yourself from bad habits

If you’ve been promising yourself that you’re going to ditch that bad habit for a while but have never quite got around to doing so, it could be time to take the plunge. To help ensure your success and make the process a little less painless, check out these 10 ways to break bad habits.

Change one thing at a time

You may have a few vices you would like to be rid of, but it is important that you don’t try to break all your bad habits at once. You’re not superhuman and trying to kick a smoking habit, give up chocolate and stop biting your nails all at the same time is probably going to be hard to achieve. Instead, prioritise and pick the habit you most urgently need to change first. Also, try to set a definite goal to work towards rather than a vague “I’m going to stop being so unhealthy”.  Identify what exactly it is you need to do (or stop doing) and make that your focus.

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 Go public

When trying to kick a bad habit, it is important to tell at least one person about it so that you have somebody to be accountable to. When you are craving a cigarette on your lunch hour it is far easier to give in to your craving if you have nobody to answer to than if you know your colleague is going to quiz you later. You could even consider starting up a blog so that others can follow your progress – having to write about your lapses for others’ viewing may help you think twice about giving in.
Recruit a friend

Even better than just telling someone about your goal, if you know someone who’s been talking about giving up the same bad habit for a while, or who has been inspired by your decision, why not talk them into getting onboard too? Having someone else who knows what you’re going through is great motivation as you will always have someone to call for a moan or some support when the going gets tough.
Take it one day at a time

Setting out to break a bad habit with the thought of “I can never do so-and-so ever again” can be extremely daunting; instead, tell yourself, “I won’t eat junk food/ smoke a cigarette/ have a gossip for the rest of today”. Concentrating on kicking your habit one day at a time makes it seem a lot more achievable, and each day that you beat that habit will inspire you to try again tomorrow. For added motivation, try charting your success on a calendar, marking each day that you have resisted your habit.

Prepare for weak moments


Although it is great to go into this positively, being too confident – and failing to prepare for those moments of weakness – could be your biggest mistake. Don’t rely on being too disciplined to fail; instead accept that we all lack willpower at times and try removing temptation to prepare for those weak moments. Clear the cupboards of chocolate, stay out of stressful situations, or get some distance from friends people who encourage you to drink, for example – make it as difficult for yourself to indulge your habit as you can.

Replace your bad habit with a good one

Cutting something out of your life entirely can be difficult, inconvenient and even plain depressing. To compensate for the sudden gap in your life, try finding substitutes for your bad habit that help to ease the pain. For example, swap junk food (like crisps) for healthy snacks (such as popcorn), or try replacing swear words with other, more innocent phrases (think Ross and Rachel’s “boohockey” and “brother pucker” in the sitcom Friends). You could also try taking up a hobby to compensate for the time you previously spent indulging a TV or shopping habit or hanging out in bars.

Also read:

10 ‘bad’ habits that are good for you  

10 ways to gain control of your life

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