Bad habits are destructive for your mind, body, and soul. Whether it’s chain-smoking, channel-surfing, nail-biting or emotional eating, there’s no denying the fact that our bad habits are harmful to our health. Bad habits aren’t something you’re born with. They are the result of months or years of consistent repetition. The good news? The inverse is also true; just like bad habits are created by consistent repetition,  you can break bad habits with consistent repetition. Challenge accepted? Keep on reading.

Find the root cause.

Your bad habits didn’t magically develop all by themselves. They have been built up by years of repetition and thus, they won’t be easy to eliminate. This is why most people who attempt to lose weight by going on a super restrictive crash diet fail. Attempting to remodel your behavior overnight is a doomed strategy that will cause you to get overwhelmed and quit. Before you do anything else, do some soul-searching to discover the root cause of your bad habit. For example:

  • Do you eat fried foods or sweets because they offer you comfort on a stressful day?
  • Are you smoking cigarettes because they calm your nerves at work?
  • Does television offer a distraction from the problems you’re afraid to confront in the real world?

The first step to breaking a bad habit is to understand why it exists.

Identify your triggers.

If you want to break your bad habit for good, I encourage you to begin a diary today. Write down any circumstances, thoughts, or feelings that you experience before lighting up a cigarette or eating a candy bar. For example, I once had a personal training client who experienced fierce cravings for ice cream. I asked her to start a diary and write down anything that transpired right before her cravings. We discovered something very interesting: she didn’t want ice cream at all. Her true desire? More attention from her boyfriend. She felt neglected and unappreciated because her partner didn’t spend much time with her, and any time she experienced stress due to this issue, her craving followed. Being aware of your triggers will help you find the true sources of stress that need attention. You will also be much more likely to avoid temptation when you are able to look out for the triggers behind the wheel of your decisions.

Pick a positive alternative.

Breaking bad habits requires consistent practice and repetition. To re-wire your brain, choose a positive behavior to replace your bad habit. Recall my past client who reached for a bowl of ice cream any time she felt neglected by her boyfriend. She had a cute puppy who she just adopted, so I asked her to start taking her pup outside for a brief walk every time she experienced her trigger. At first, she sometimes came back inside to eat a bowl of ice cream (at least she walked off a few of the calories) but as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” After several weeks of repetition, she successfully replaced her bad habit with the positive alternative. Don’t become discouraged if it takes you a few days or weeks to make any progress. Bad habits built up over months and years are not easy to break. Keep your head high and maintain a Big Picture mindset. This is NOT a 30-day program–it’s a life-long journey.

Hold yourself accountable.

Feeling brave? Proclaim your intention to break your bad habit to the world. Post a status on Facebook to inform your entire network of your goal. Sound scary? It is. But making your friends aware of your goal will motivate you unlike anything else. Added bonus: you will instantly create a cheerleading squad who will encourage you that you can do it.

Go forth and crush it.

Anyone can break bad habits by following the steps outlined here. You are capable of accomplishing anything you set your mind to. If you’re feeling brave, go ahead and comment below with a bad habit you intend to eliminate. Have a question? Ask away. I’m here to support you in any way I can.

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Featured photo credit: face beautiful girl smoking a cigarettevia Shutterstock

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