Do you have any bad habits? Of course not, right? Who wants to admit they have bad habits? If we're honest with ourselves, though, we all have at least one bad habit. In fact, most of us probably have a few bad habits.
If you look at your daily routine, you'll realize that much of your day is made up of various habits. A habit can be anything you do on a regular basis. Habits can be good or bad. For example, brushing your teeth after every meal is a good habit. Bad habits might be anything from smoking and overeating to biting your nails and procrastinating.
Bad habits can range from mostly harmless or only mildly annoying to very serious and dangerous to your health. Although it seems illogical that people would willingly engage in a bad habit that endangers their lives, you don't have to look far to find people who regularly smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, do drugs, or overindulge in unhealthy foods.
People develop bad habits for a variety of reasons. In the case of smoking, for example, people may become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. When it comes to overeating, the simple act of eating tasty food is its own reward. Whatever the reason people start bad habits, they can be broken with a focused effort and help from others.
Given that there are many different types of bad habits, it should come as no surprise that there's no one surefire way to break a bad habit. Instead, experts who help people break bad habits use a variety of techniques to alter behavior. Through trial and error, various methods can be used to help people finally gain control over their bad habits.
Experts believe an important first step toward breaking a bad habit is acknowledging that you have a bad habit. Along with admitting you have a bad habit, concentrate on trying to figure out when and why you engage in the bad habit. Understanding your behavior is an important initial step in determining how to change that behavior.
Of course, figuring out why you maintain a bad habit isn't always easy. To help identify the causes of your bad habit, experts recommend keeping a journal of your activities and behavior. Through journaling, many people are able to detect patterns they didn't notice before. For example, some people notice that they overeat when they're bored.
Once you identify potential causes of your bad habit, try to replace your bad habits with good habits. If you overeat when you get bored, try exercising instead. Of course, you're still going to get hungry, so you'll also need to replace a bad habit of eating junk food with the good habit of eating healthy food.
No one single approach will help everyone eliminate every bad habit. There are several other strategies experts recommend, though. If you're trying to break a bad habit and struggling to succeed, try one of these tactics:
- Stick with it! If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Many experts believe it can take up to three full weeks — 21 days — to form a new, good habit. Habits can be hard to break, because you've engaged in the behavior for a long time on a regular basis. Reversing that trend can take several weeks to several months or longer to eliminate an entrenched bad habit.
- Avoid temptation! If you have a habit of overeating junk food, don't buy it! Don't keep it in the house. Clean out the refrigerator. If you don't have junk food lying around, you'll be less tempted to eat it.
- Get help! Family and friends can be invaluable aids in helping to break bad habits. When you're tempted or struggling, they can be there to lift you up and provide the strength you need to stay on the right path.
- Take small steps! Keep the end goal in mind, but realize that a long journey consists of many small steps. Reward yourself along the way as you successfully take those small steps. Reaching the end goal will be its own reward, so give yourself needed encouragement along the way.