How To Kick Bad Habits And Start Good Ones

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So you want to improve your life? Here’s an idea, kick out bad habits and replace them with good ones. Because good habits have the potential to lead us to a successful life in both the short and long term.

Why are habits important?

Habits are important because, for one, they relieve the brain of the difficult task of making decisions. Imagine waking up every day and deciding on each and every menial task that you need to complete.

For example, should I make my bed now or wait until I’ve had my coffee? Should I start by brushing my teeth? What do I wear today?

Even though these tasks are simple, they exhaust the brain. And it’s still early in the morning. Think of the toll it would take to make decisions all throughout the day.

Thus habits form. Repetitive actions strengthen the neural pathway in the brain, making it automatic. When this happens, the brain conserves energy to focus on more important tasks.

The second reason habits are important is that they lay the groundwork for your goals.

Let’s say you want to become a public speaker. So you’d have to practice speaking in front of the mirror every day. Practice introducing yourself in the best possible manner. Practice delivering the message you want to convey.

Among other things, this simple daily habit will gradually lead to your success as a speaker.

The third importance of habits is that they make up who you are. According to a Duke University study:

“approximately 45% of everyday behaviors tended to be repeated in the same location almost every day”

With this fact, it is critical to develop good habits and eliminate bad ones if we want to improve our lives.

How to kick bad habits

So how in the world are you going to end your bad habits? Read on for some ways you can take to get rid of negative behaviors.

Identify bad habits

This is the first step because you can’t change something you don’t recognize. If you don’t consider a certain action as a bad habit, you won’t be able to change it.

Although some habits, such as smoking, swearing, or emotional eating, are easily identified. There may be others that are negatively affecting you but that you are unaware of.

Having said that, there are some ways for you to identify your bad habits. Start by writing down all your daily thoughts, activities, and actions on paper. Try it for a week but it’s better to have a longer time frame.

From there, identify the thoughts, activities, and actions that are not beneficial to you. For example, you may have listed shopping online 5 days in a row. Or said yes to an event or activity you weren’t particularly excited about, and so on.

Another way you can identify a bad habit is to ask your friends or family. Other people may know you better than you know yourself. Request honest and objective feedback about yourself from them.

Define your why

Have a good WHY. The reason for the need for change. Keep in mind that your reason must be compelling enough to justify the change.

Because change is difficult. You have to have a strong reason for wanting to break a bad habit. It will inspire you to persevere.

Again, you can use a journal to list down all of the advantages of changing your bad habit. Each time you face a setback, go over them for motivation. Better yet, put them on post-it notes for a more visible reminder.

Be mindful

Once you’ve identified the bad habits you want to break. Keep an eye out for them. Determine the cues or reminders that lead to the negative action.

Going back to our previous example about online shopping. Identify the emotions or processes that resulted in the purchase. Were you upset? Happy? Or simply bored?

Noticing the patterns that lead to the negative routine will allow you to consider alternative solutions. Such as going to the gym to work out whatever emotions you’re experiencing.

Rearrange things

Or as what James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, calls environment design. In order to make your bad habits easier to break, change the layout of your space.

For example, if you want to break the habit of watching too much television. You can rearrange the furniture so that it faces AWAY from the TV.

Alternatively, to avoid mindless scrolling, place your favorite social media icon in several layers of folders. So that when you reach for your mobile, it is not the first thing you see onscreen.

The idea is to create friction in the habit loop. Increase the number of steps you have to do a negative action. And the additional steps will cause a disruption making the action less appealing.

Start small

As previously stated, change is never easy. That being said, do not try to change all your bad habits at once. Rather, start by changing one habit at a time.

This will increase your chances of success. By starting small, you will face less resistance from yourself and begin a snowball effect of breaking bad habits.

Making small steps forward can boost your confidence and allow you to continue your self-improvement journey.

Be patient

Remember that your bad habit did not develop overnight. So it goes without saying that breaking it will also take time. So be patient with yourself.

Along with that, keep in mind that you may make mistakes from time to time. And that’s okay. So long as you get back on track.

Be gentle with yourself. But keep going. Do not allow a slip-up to derail your progress.

Replace bad habits with good ones

Breaking bad habits becomes easier when there is a replacement. Because let’s face it, you have grown accustomed to your old habits, simply quitting won’t cut it. And the more you try to break a habit, the stronger it becomes.

So stop wasting time and effort battling a bad habit. Better to replace your negative habits with positive ones.

You can, for example, substitute reading a book for watching television. Alternatively, instead of scrolling and purchasing various products online, you could do some decluttering.

With a substitute, you are ensuring that you don’t slip back into the bad habit. But, when choosing an alternative to a bad habit, consider the following:

  • Will this alternative benefit my health?
  • Will it support my goal?
  • Is this alternative practical for me?

How to start good habits

Moving along, how then do you start to develop good habits? Don’t worry, I got you covered. Here are 5 suggestions for an easier transition to your good habits.

Start small

Yep, it’s always your best bet to start small. So that you can make the change more manageable. And have a better chance of success.

For example, if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you can start by drinking water instead of soda. Replace your soda intake with water in small increments.

Assuming you drink soda after each meal. So for one week, instead of soda after lunch, you drink water. The next week, you can replace soda with water for after your lunch and snack. And so on.

Once you get the hang of drinking water only. You can then start adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals.

By going through this route, your mind can properly handle the gradual positive changes compared to trying all the healthy habits in one go. That would almost certainly result in failure.

Maintain a positive attitude

When you decide to develop a good habit, you are bound to encounter difficulties. The temptation may succeed in making you miss an exercise session for example. Or make you eat that bar of candy.

When this happens, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. To overcome the negative self-talk that may result in the slip-up. Remind yourself that one mistake does not mean failure. You can always try again.

In addition, positive thinking will give you a healthier approach to negative situations. Thus, allowing you to have a better chance of achieving your goals.

Commitment

Although it may not sound like a big deal, committing to developing a good habit will result in accountability.

With commitment, you hold yourself accountable for all of the actions required to make the positive habit stick. Holding yourself accountable to your commitments alters your perspective. And teaches you two crucial lessons.

That is, one, make realistic commitments, and two, believe in yourself.

Prepare for setbacks

Developing a good habit will certainly have setbacks. And that should be expected. So prepare a plan of action for when you get sidetracked.

First of all, allow for mistakes once in a while. Remove the guilt and instead focus on getting back on track.

For example, you may have missed an exercise session for today. Tell yourself that it’s okay but ensure that you get your exercise tomorrow and the following days.

Second, reflect on the setback. What, for example, were the circumstances that led to the missed exercise session? Then make the necessary adjustments.

Third, have a backup plan. Such as, if you can’t do a full one-hour session, do several 10-minute sessions. So long as you don’t miss a day.

Celebrate small wins

Celebrate and reward yourself for every small win you achieve. It will not only provide you the motivation to continue with the habit. But it will also allow you to pursue other beneficial habits.

Science explains that rewarding yourself activates the brain’s feel-good circuit. Providing a sense of accomplishment, a confidence boost, and inspiration to keep going.

So take a short pause and enjoy that small victory. You may still have a long way to go, but, hey! you’re on your way.

Effective daily habits

To jumpstart your improvement journey, here are effective daily habits for you to try:

  1. Drink water first thing in the morning. The best time to drink water is in the morning after you wake up. Because it hydrates the body and helps in digestion and metabolism.
  2. Incorporate some movement. Short exercises. A few yoga stretches. Or, a walk around the park or your neighborhood will provide a great benefit to the mind and body.
  3. Add more fruits and vegetables to your meals. We all know that fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and minerals which are beneficial to our physical health. And eating more of them, will mean less space for carbs and processed foods.
  4. Take time to connect with friends and family. It doesn’t take much to send a message. Or a phonecall. But the connection it will provide will be invaluable to a friend or family member. More importantly, we owe it to ourselves, for our own wellbeing.
  5. Learn new things. To keep the mind active. It is one way of exercising the brain and keeping it healthy. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and improved life.

To summarize

Habits are important because they allow the brain to conserve energy for use in more important tasks.

You can kick bad habits through:

  1. Identification of bad habits
  2. Having a strong why
  3. Being mindful
  4. Rearranging things
  5. Starting small 
  6. Being patient, and
  7. Replacing bad habits with good ones.

Additionally, starting good habits is done by:

  1. Starting small
  2. Maintaining a positive attitude
  3. Commitment
  4. Preparing for setbacks, and
  5. Celebrating small wins.

A few examples of good habits for improvement include drinking water first thing in the morning. Incorporating physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables. Connecting with others and learning new things is also important.

Please share your thoughts or ideas about replacing bad habits with good ones in the comments below. If you liked this article, you might be interested in these articles about effective habits, change, and starting over:

Top 10 Reasons Why Change Is Difficult
How To Start Over Even When You Feel Old
9 Effective Habits For A Happy Life
29 Quotes To Make Change A Little Easier
43 Quotes To Inspire You To Start Over Today

Outside reference:

Habits—A Repeat Performance
James Clear
How to Break a Habit (and Make It Stick)
15 Key Tips to Develop Good Habits That Work

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