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Why Forming a New Good Habit Is Easier Than Breaking a Bad One

Why Forming a New Good Habit Is Easier Than Breaking a Bad One

We’ve all got a few bad habits. No one’s perfect. Whether it’s eating too much candy, leaving everything until the last minute, watching too much TV, skipping workouts, or letting e-mails pile up at work, we all do things that go against our best interests.

So why don’t we just drop our bad habits? Every year, millions of us make New Year’s resolutions in a bid to change. Unfortunately, as you know, it’s not that simple. Our bad habits become a regular way of life. We start to say things like, “Oh, that’s just how I am!” and “It’s just what I do.” It can feel impossible to break a habit once and for all. In fact, the more you try to resist a habit, the more it can stick.

The science behind bad habits

We all repeat things that feel good, even if we know that they won’t help us in the long run. This is because bad habits such as drinking alcohol, eating too much sugary food, and spending too long in front of the TV trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.[1] When your brain learns that a particular action makes you feel good, it compels you to repeat it in the future. Your bad habits serve a purpose. Although you might not like the end result, they give you a positive outcome in the moment. This is why they are so hard to kick.

If you develop the habit of slumping in front of the TV as soon as you get in from work, you will probably start skipping workouts, which becomes another bad habit. You might also start to snack in front of your favorite shows. Suddenly, you will have slipped into not one, not two, but three bad habits!

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It’s human nature to seek out rewards, even if they harm us. For instance, 70% of smokers say that they would like to quit but cannot do so, despite the fact that everyone knows that smoking is terrible for human health.[2]

What should you do instead?

Quite simply, you need to start building better habits and stop wasting time and effort trying to break free from your negative behaviours.

Stop judging yourself

You’ve probably already tried telling yourself to just stop with the bad habits and do better in future. Unfortunately, berating yourself only leads to a negative self-image and self-doubt. This kind of negative thinking can become a bad habit in itself.

Thinking about your own faults isn’t much fun. You may have noticed that when you try to break a bad habit, your mind comes up with all kinds of justifications as to why you should carry on doing the same old thing. Habits make you feel comfortable, remember? It’s hard to give that up. Moreover, if you’ve been engaging in the same old habits for months or even years, they will be firmly entrenched. This makes them hard to shift.

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For example, let’s say that you want to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink each week. One of your bad habits is to have a large glass of wine every night just before you sit down for dinner. You could try scolding yourself, reading up on the dangers of drinking too much, and telling yourself sternly that you are “going to stop this week.”

Unfortunately, the most likely outcome in this situation is that you will feel uncomfortable at the prospect of giving up your bad habit, and possibly guilty or ashamed of having the problem in the first place. So how do you deal with these feelings? By carrying on drinking, of course!

Change your focus

You need to take a new approach. Instead of beating yourself up, it’s time to think about developing behaviors that can provide you with a sense of comfort without damaging your physical or psychological health. If you know that your new habits will help you feel better, you will be motivated to start them! This is much easier than trying to break a bad habit.

When identifying your bad habits and adopting new, positive behaviors, you need to think like a detective or scientist. Take a step back and look at the situation from an objective point of view. If this is difficult for you, pretend that you are trying to help someone else. This can provide you with a clearer perspective.

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First, think about the root causes of your bad habit. Why did it start, and what triggers keep it going? For instance, if you have fallen into the habit of eating high-fat microwave dinners after work, this may be because you went through a busy time in your life where you didn’t have the energy to cook a healthy meal in the evening. At the time, prepackaged microwave dinners may been an adequate temporary solution.

The next step is to devise new habits that will give you the same level of comfort. Ask yourself how you can make it simple to start putting your new habits in place.

Check out this guide for lots of tips on how to make a new habit stick.

Get into the habit of building better habits

We all know that bad habits are comfortable, but you can change!

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Remember, habits become more engrained over time. The more often you repeat an action – whether good or bad – the more likely it is to stick. This also goes for the habit-building habit too.

Once you’ve mastered the art of squeezing out bad habits with more positive behaviours, it will get easier and easier to build the life you want.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] Truthhawk: Why Do We Have Bad Habits?
[2] News In Health: Breaking Bad Habits

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 23, 2020

5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

Facebook is embedded into lives around the world. We use it to connect with friends, share important milestones, and check in with the news. However, what may seem like harmless scrolling can become harmful if it takes up inordinate amounts of time and turns into a Facebook addiction.

The first step to breaking any bad habit is to understand the symptoms and psychological triggers that made you pick up the habit in the first place. Below you’ll find the common causes, and the good news is that, once you’ve identified them, you can implement specific strategies to get over your Facebook addiction.

Symptoms of a Facebook Addiction

Do you find that the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone and scroll through Facebook? Is it the last thing you see before falling asleep? You may have a Facebook addiction. Here are some more of the signs and symptoms[1]:

  • You end up spending hours on Facebook, even when you don’t mean to.
  • You use Facebook to escape problems or change your mood.
  • You go to sleep later because you’re glued to your screen.
  • Your relationships are suffering because you spend more time on your phone than you do talking with the people you care about.
  • You automatically pull out your phone when you have free time.

You can check out this TED Talk by Tristan Harris to understand how Facebook and other social media gain and hold our attention:

Psychological Reasons for a Facebook Addiction

A compulsive Facebook addiction doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are often root causes that push you into Facebook, which can ultimately manifest as an addiction once you become dependent on it. Here are some of the common causes.

Procrastination

Facebook can cause procrastination, but many times, your tendency to procrastinate can lead you to scrolling through your Facebook feed.

Facebook capitalizes on your tendency to procrastinate[2] by incorporating a news feed with an infinite scroll. No matter how far down you go, there will always be more memes and status updates to keep you distracted from whatever you should be doing.

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Thus, it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, right?

Loneliness or Indecision

Facebook resembles a boring reality TV show that is on full display during every hour of the day. Do you really need to tell everybody what you ate for lunch? I doubt it.

You don’t share such trivial details to add value to people’s lives. You’re likely doing it because you’re lonely and in need of attention or approval[3].

Seeking opinions from your friends could be a sign of indecision or low self-confidence. If you get a bad suggestion, then you can conveniently blame somebody else, thus protecting your ego.

Social Comparisons

Social comparison is a natural part of being human[4]. We need to know where we stand in order to judge our rank among our peers. And Facebook has made this all too easy.

When we get into Facebook, our brains are bombarded by hundreds of people to compare ourselves to. We see our cousin’s amazing vacation to Europe, our friend’s adorable baby, our brother’s new puppy, etc. Everything looks better than what we have because, of course, people are only going to post the best parts.

This extreme form of social comparison with a Facebook addiction can, unfortunately, lead to depression. One study pointed out that “people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others”[5].

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People-Pleasing

Facebook takes advantage of your desire for instant gratification[6]. Your brain receives a dopamine hit every time you see that red notification light up. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that causes you to seek pleasure from things.

Pleasure sounds nice in theory, but dopamine is responsible for self-destructive behavior if overproduced. Thus, becoming a slave to your notifications can destroy your self-control in a hurry.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the human desire to be liked and accepted is at play, too. Every time you get a “Like,” your brain decides that means somebody likes you. Keep this up and you’ll turn into an addict desperate for another “hit.”

Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Facebook wrecks your focus by preying on your fear of missing out. You check your Facebook feed during a date because you don’t want to miss any interesting updates. You check your messages while you drive because a friend might have something exciting to share.

One study found that “a high level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are predictors of Facebook intrusion, while a low level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are related to satisfaction with life”[7].

Therefore, while you may feel temporarily glad that you didn’t miss something, research shows that FOMO will actually reduce your overall life satisfaction.

How to Break a Facebook Addiction

Now that you know some of the causes of a Facebook addiction, you may be ready to break it. If so, follow these 5 steps to get over your addiction and improve your mental health.

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1. Admit the Addiction

You can’t fix a problem if you deny it exists. Don’t beat yourself up, but do try and be honest enough to admit you’re a Facebook addict. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a recovering addict myself. There is no reason to be ashamed.

Telling a trusted friend might help you stay accountable, especially if they share your goal.

2. Be Mindful of Triggers

In order to discover the triggers that lead you to use Facebook, ask yourself the following questions. It may be helpful to write them down at a journal.

  • What did I do? (scrolling, sharing, notification checking, etc.)
  • When did I do it? (down-time at work, as soon as you woke up, right before bed, on a date, etc.)
  • What happened right before? (a stressful event, boredom, etc.)
  • How did this make me feel? (stressed, anxious, sad, angry, etc.)

Once you’re aware of what pushes you to use Facebook, you can work on tackling those specific things to get over your Facebook addiction.

3. Learn to Recognize the Urge

Every time you feel the urge to update your status or check your feed, recognize that impulse for what it is (a habitual behavior—NOT a conscious decision). This is especially powerful when you complete step 2 because you’ll be able to make a mental note of the specific psychological trigger at play.

Have a plan for when you feel the desire to use Facebook. For example, if you know you use it when you’re bored, plan to practice a hobby instead. If you use it when you’re stressed, create a relaxation routine instead of jumping on Facebook.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Facebook is an epic time-suck, but that doesn’t mean you should criticize yourself every time you log-on to your feed. Beating yourself up will make you feel bad about yourself, which will ironically cause you to be even more tempted.

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Self-loathing can only lead to failure. You might end up deciding it’s hopeless because you are “too lazy.”  If you want to break your addiction for good, then you need to be self-compassionate.

5. Replace the Addiction With a Positive Alternative

It’s a lot easier to eliminate a bad habit when you decide on a good habit that you would like to replace it with. I applied this idea by choosing to pick up a book every time I was tempted to check my feed.

The result blew my mind. I read over a hundred pages in the first day! Trust me when I say those “few minutes of down-time” can add up to an obscene amount of waste.

Having a specific metric to track is important. If you want to stay encouraged, you need to have compelling evidence that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

For example, download an app to help you determine exactly how much time is spent on Facebook so you know how much of your life you’re losing to it. Then, when you find a healthy alternative, you can feel good about all the time you’re giving to it!

Final Thoughts

Facebook addictions aren’t uncommon in today’s technologically dependent world. In the pursuit of human connection, we’ve mistakenly taken our interactions online, thinking it would be an easier alternative. Unfortunately, this is no replacement for genuine, face-to-face interaction in real life.

If you think you have a problem, there are things you can do to tackle it. Get started today and improve your overall well-being.

More on How to Use Social Media Less

Featured photo credit: Tim Bennett via unsplash.com

Reference

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