How to Break Up with Bad Habits

Breaking a habit can be challenging. Here is how to get started.

Woman stands outside looking at the sun, how to break up with bad habits

Habits are actions you take regularly, and some are good for your health and well-being while others can slow your progress and make it difficult to achieve your goals. Breaking a habit can be challenging, but with the right approach and a willingness to make a change, you can move forward and achieve success.

Identifying Your Bad Habits and Their Causes

In most cases, people engage in unhealthy behavior because they feel stressed and/or bored. If you’re an emotional eater, you may find that you overindulge when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious about a situation.

If you use tobacco or abuse alcohol, you may find that the use of these substances fills a void or calms your nerves. However, overeating, smoking, drinking too much, and engaging in other bad habits can all impact your health and well-being.

Overeating is linked to weight gain, which can lead to obesity. Even carrying a little extra weight on your body can impact your joints, making it difficult to participate in your favorite activities. Obesity is linked to more concerning health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Tobacco use is harmful to your health, increasing your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and other dangerous health problems, and using tobacco can also impact those around you. Alcohol abuse can increase your risk of liver disease, stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

These aren’t the only bad habits that you may engage in on a regular basis. Other common habits that people want to break include nail biting, watching too much television, showing up late or cancelling plans with people, spending time with toxic people, and procrastinating.

Related: Building Good Habits That Stick

Breaking Bad Habits, One Step at a Time

No matter what habits you have, you can overcome them and find new ways to spend your time and interact with other people. While it may seem overwhelming, identifying strategies that help you adjust your behavior can help you make the changes, one step at a time.

Step One: Make a List of Bad Habits

The first step in changing your habits is identifying the ones that aren’t good for your physical or emotional health.

Step Two: Identify Your Triggers

For many people, certain situations and events trigger their desire to engage in certain behaviors. If you find that you want to use tobacco or snack on junk food when you’re feeling stressed, that is a trigger for you.

Identifying your triggers can help you plan ahead and come up with a way to cope, even when challenges arise. It’s also helpful to cut out triggers wherever possible. If you tend to overeat when you’re feeling anxious, avoid keeping junk food in your house. Look for ways to eliminate situations that may cause you to engage in the habit.

Step Three: Join Forces with Others

Stopping a bad habit is tough to handle on your own, so be open and upfront about your desire to make a change in your life with people you can trust. If you have a friend who tends to indulge in some of these habits with you, ask that friend if they would be willing to quit alongside you. Even if your friend or family member doesn’t engage in the same behavior, they can still serve as a support to you, especially when challenging times arise, and you need a distraction.

Step Four: Find a Substitute

While you can eliminate some of the triggers in your life, you will still encounter challenges and stressful situations. It’s important to find a substitute behavior for the action you’re trying to cut out of your life. If you feel the urge to use tobacco, consider replacing that habit with breathing exercises. If you’re having trouble cutting back on your TV consumption, try exercising while you watch an hour of your favorite show or picking up a new hobby to fill the time.

Step Five: Visualize Your Success

As you move through the steps to break up with your bad habit, visualize yourself succeeding in your goal. Imagine yourself shopping for healthy, nutritious foods at the grocery store and cooking it or getting up earlier to exercise before you head to work. By visualizing yourself having success, you can see your new identity and the benefits that will come with making these positive changes in your life.

Related: 7 Small Changes That Lead to Lasting Healthy Habits

Breaking up with bad habits isn’t an easy process, but it’s well worth the effort. By persevering and overcoming the behaviors that are holding you back, you can achieve more success in your life and feel proud of the changes you have made.

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