December 30th, 2019
All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.
Have a bad habit that you’re trying to get rid of, but are not sure where to start? You are not alone! Bad habits can be an array of things. It could be staying up too late at night, surfing the internet, or scrolling through social media too much during the day. Maybe it is smoking or overeating junk food. Or maybe it is constantly showing up late to work, appointments, or social events with friends. Whatever your bad habit is, just know you are not alone. We all have bad habits that we are all trying to change. Bad habits are time-consuming, can be destructive, can hinder your health, and can prevent you from achieving your goals. It can be a struggle to break free of them.
Bad habits are part of a sequence - trigger, routine, and reward. A trigger is a stimulus that starts the habit, a routine is the actual doing of the bad habit, and the reward is the benefit associated with the bad habit and releases dopamine. Every time you go through this sequence it gets more ingrained in you until it becomes automatic, which in turn becomes a bad habit.
Different things can be your trigger. It can be emotional, situational, environmental, or a combination of these three things that can trigger your bad habit. Breaking bad habits can be difficult because there are parts of your brain that associate your cravings as “feel good” with the bad habit.
There are a few approaches that can help you break free of your bad habits...
Be Honest With Yourself
To begin with, you need to be honest with yourself and decide if you want to make these changes and stay dedicated to the process to break the bad habit. You can only change what you want to change. You need to be committed to changing to be successful in breaking your bad habit. Convince yourself that you can achieve your goal and change your bad habit. Because you can do this!
Decrease Your Stress Levels
It would help if you lowered your stress levels. When you are stressed out you are more likely to engage in a bad habit. Some ways to go about lowering your stress level are to make sure you get more sleep, exercise regularly, or through meditation. All these things can increase your willpower to not engage in bad habits; as well as, increase your overall brain health.
Try to be aware of what causes your triggers. Addiction expert, Judson Brewer, says that regular mindfulness practice could help you break a bad habit. In Brewer’s study, he found that mindfulness practice helps to weaken the link between cravings and bad habits. When you feel the urge to do a bad habit, step back and be aware of the sensation of the trigger in your body.
Keep a journal of quick notes consisting of: 1) where you were when the craving shows up, 2) when the craving shows up, 3) what were the emotions you were feeling, 4) who were you with, 5) what happened leading up to you feeling the craving, 6) the events that take place on the days you do or don’t act on the bad habit, and 7) your progress. Keeping this journal will allow you to take control and will allow you to make better decisions over the long term and knowing your triggers will help you avoid them.
Set Small Realistic Goals
Humans are action-oriented creatures, so you must replace your bad habit with a good habit. You will need to form a habit-breaking process by creating specific, doable behaviors to break the bad habit. Set goals that are doable and achievable. Start slow and gradually make changes to your goal once you’ve gotten in the habit of your new routine. Trying to start too fast with not having smaller goals in between your ultimate long-term goal can set you up for failure. Failure is bound to happen, but smaller goals will set you up to be more successful.
Surround Yourself With Support
Make sure you have a support system and allow yourself a reward. Having a support system that encourages you to continue with good habits will help you be even more successful. Make sure that your support system knows what your goals are so that they can help you stick with them. During your efforts to break your habit, you may feel discouraged. This is the low point in the breaking bad habit process. Make sure you reward yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Instead of spending all that money on smoking or junk food, use that money to buy yourself something you’ve been wanting, like a new outfit.
Breaking your habit is not going to happen overnight. It is going to take time and discipline for you to overcome the bad habit. There will be easier days and days that are harder during this process. Don’t get discouraged by how long it might take or if you will fail. Just start over, have patience with yourself, forgive yourself for failing, and stick with it. If you feel that you are still struggling and not making any progress, seek professional help.
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff specializing in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
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