No one's perfect, believe it or not, and every person has at least one bad habit that they'd like to kick. The problem is that bad habits, are well, habits, which means that they are behavior patterns that are very difficult to break.
A bad habit can be ANY repetitive behavior that you find hard to stop — eating fast food, biting your nails or being consistently late for appointments. Sometimes, a bad habit can become an addiction, like smoking, alcoholism or problem gambling. In these cases, professional help is usually needed to help you stop. But in the case of everyday, humdrum bad habits, you have the power to stop them on your own.
But actually kicking a bad habit isn't as easy as saying you'll do it. If it was, we really would all be perfect! Unfortunately, it's not that easy — BUT IT IS POSSIBLE. The key is to have a plan. Just like losing weight won't happen haphazardly, neither will kicking a bad habit. Both require a plan so that when you're faced with that piece of cake or that routine behavior you've become accustomed to, you'll have the tools to help you say no.
Why Are Bad Habits So Hard to Break?It's not only bad habits that are hard to break, but all habits. We have plenty of good habits, like waking up when our alarm rings, getting dressed in the morning and knowing how to get to work. Habits are like the brain's autopilot, and they are designed to help us complete our daily tasks quickly and efficiently.
The problem happens when we incorporate a bad habit into our lifestyle, which then becomes part of our autopilot. According to James Clear, habit-formation is a four-part cycle that includes a Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward. “The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.” That leads to a neurological feedback loop — the autopilot — a system that was intended to help us be more efficient but now has created a slew of bad habits that we need to kick.
Changing Our Neurological PathwaysAt this point you may be asking, if habits become part of our autopilot, how can we possibly change them? Don't despair — of course you can change them! Just as you created neurological pathways in your brain when forming the habit, you can create new ones when breaking it.
Here are 3 scientifically-backed ways of breaking a bad habit:
If you're trying to quit the habit of drinking diet soda, telling yourself to stop drinking it won't help. What will help is if you keep your fridge stocked with flavored seltzer or water so that you have a replacement when the craving hits. If you act on your habit-replacement often enough, it will soon become your new habit.
Many bad habits, like eating sugary snacks or watching too much television, are stress-related. When we feel stressed, we seek things that will give us an immediate rush. Sugar and watching TV both produce surges of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, which makes us feel better at the time and rewards our “bad” behavior with a good feeling. This makes us go back to it again and again. If you can find a healthy way to reduce your stress levels, this can prevent you from seeking that immediate, feel-good response that in the long-run really isn't good for you.
As Clear said, habits form from a cue, such as, "I'm stressed," or "I'm tired." Habits can also form at a certain time of day — if you're used to having a piece of cake with your 3:00 pm cup of coffee, come 3:00 pm, you'll have a craving for something sweet. Whether it's an emotional cue or a symptom of routine, identifying what sets off your bad habits can help you break them. Once you know your cues, you can then find a "replacement habit" or a way to reduce your stress so that you can extract yourself from the unhealthy habit you got yourself used to.
Lose Bad Habits, Gain a Healthy Body and MindWhile it's not easy to drop a bad habit, your efforts can be worthwhile. When you live a healthy lifestyle, you reap all the natural benefits that come from being fit, in addition to some unexpected benefits.
Did you know that the healthier you are, the lower your life insurance premiums will be? Life insurance carriers absolutely take your health into account when calculating your premiums, so the healthier your body and mind are, the healthier your wallet will be too.