How to Break A Bad Habit

You’ve probably heard the saying that it takes 21 days to break a habit and maybe you’ve even tried it for yourself. Some habits are, of course, easier to break than others. For example, 21 days without a cigarette is a great start, but you still have a long road ahead of you. In reality, the length of time to break a habit varies greatly from person to person and from habit to habit.

You also have to remember that your bad habits don’t exist in a vacuum—they are supported by other habits, your personality, your circumstances, and the psychological and emotional reasons why you developed the habit in the first place. It might seem like an impossible feat at first, but any habit can be broken—and these tips can help you do it:

Replace the bad habit with something positive
One of the biggest hacks for breaking a habit is finding a way to replace your bad habit with something else. For example, if you have a habit of biting your nails, the first thing to work on is being more self aware. Once you start recognizing the situations where you might bite your nails, you can make a conscious decision to do something else every time you get the urge. Maybe pop a piece of gum in your mouth, or chug a glass of water to get your mind off your usual habit. This requires the ability to not only identify what is causing your bad habit, but also figure out what you personally need to do in order to reverse the behaviour. Everyone is different, so experiment to find out what works for you.

Make it a competition
You know how you’re more likely to drag your butt out of bed to go to the gym in the morning if you’re meeting a friend there for a workout? Well, if you know someone who is trying to break a bad habit—whether it’s the same one as you or not—they can help you feel like someone else understands your struggle. You can text them when you’re feeling tempted, and they can do the same, and together you can help each other over the hump. If you’re the competitive type, you could even make it into a weekly game where the loser buys the winner lunch.

Celebrate small wins
When it comes to serious habits that affect your health or are harmful in other significant ways, just coming to the decision to make a change is a huge first step. Denial keeps people on paths that aren’t good for them in the long run, so if you’ve given yourself a shake and finally admitted you need to take control of your own life, you should be proud of that. From then on, every single day, it’s up to you to do what you need to do to be the best version of yourself. So give yourself a pat on the back when you make it through a particularly tough time where all you wanted to do was have a cigarette, or drink a can of Coke, or use your credit card to buy something you probably didn’t really need. You’re giving your willpower a workout every time, and it’s only going to get stronger as a result.

Remember how far you’ve come
Breaking a habit isn’t easy. It takes a lot of willpower and the ability to get yourself on track again when you have a set back. No matter how seemingly insignificant the habit was, it obviously mattered enough for you to put in the work to change it. Now you know what you’re capable of and you can set your sights on something bigger next time—because if you can break one habit, you can break any habit.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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