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How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods
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Have you ever imagined why some individuals maximize every aspect of their lives?

When they establish goals, they always attain it. It could be a goal to break an addiction, work out more, or to achieve financial freedom.

Do you find it challenging to replicate their successes? Perhaps, you even make some attempts for a while, but then you give up before you could reach the target.

If you experience that consistently, you can quickly become frustrated, but you don’t have to give up.

But how long does it take to break a bad habit? Some researchers recommended a 21-day plan to permanently get rid of bad habits. Others suggest a month plan or even 3 months. The most crucial factor is to follow through whichever timeframe you choose.

In this article, I will share with you 9 proven strategies on how to stop bad habits permanently.

1. Make the Negative Habits Obvious

If you desire better habits, the best approach is to make those habits visible. This strategy also applies if you are devising strategies on how to stop bad habits.

Cues are very crucial in habit formation. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, recommended the use of Habit Scorecard. This is an easy exercise that helps you become conscious of your behaviors daily.

The first step is to pen down a chronological list of your daily habits. Then, you rate each habit as an “effective,” “ineffective,” or a “neutral habit.” The importance of this strategy is that it assists you in discerning the relevance of each habit in your personal growth.[1].

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Now that you have a list of habits, the next thing is to take the negative habits out, which leads to the next point.

2. Start from Simple to Complex

Everybody wants to generate a significant change as fast as they can. They want to work out for 1 hour every morning, reflect for 20 minutes when they have been managing to meditate consistently for 5 minutes, switch to eating a healthy diet.

The challenge is it will always require strong willpower to achieve any bigger goal. Willpower is like your muscles. It becomes tired, the more you exert it. And when it retires, you will give up on achieving your goal.

The best approach is to take out the single target, then make progress towards a higher target. You can start by dealing with the bad habits from the less serious to the more severe.

3. Create a New Environment for Good Habits To Grow

Several studies show that our environment influences our habits. The basis is that you depend more on what you see (visual cues) than other senses of perception. This is no doubt why visual cues define our behavior.

To stop bad habits, you need to focus on positive cues that reinforce good habits. Another approach is to build new habits and stop exposing yourself to cues that will strengthen negative patterns. You will find it easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.

For instance, if you want to read more books than you watch the TV, keep the remote control in another room, and position books at every corner of your house and your office.

4. Identify the Consequences of Bad Habits

Bad habits have grave consequences. According to WebMD, bad habits affect nearly every organ of your body. They can lead to cancer, stroke, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, bronchitis, and other health problems. Bad habits can increase the chances of eye problems, tuberculosis, and several immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. It becomes easy to stop those bad habits when you are aware of their consequences.[2]

Here’re more consequences of bad habits: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

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5. Make Bad Habits Difficult and Painful

Do you want to eliminate those nasty habits? Then, attach an instant cost to each action or make those unhealthy behaviors difficult.

James Clear again recommended ‘a habit contract’. This is a written agreement where you stipulate commitment to a specific habit and the punishment for not meeting up. You will also identify two individuals who will serve as accountability mentors to append on the written agreement. In this same way, make good habits simple and attach rewards for practicing them.

6. Change Your Mindset

Whenever you are devising a strategy on how to stop bad habits, use a ‘scientist and subject’ mindset. You will need to consider each action as a behavioral experiment where every challenge offers useful data for the subsequent step.

Direct your energy on how to stop those bad habits daily instead of focusing on the long-term. If you follow the process, the outcomes will show up as outcomes of your daily efforts.

7. Associate with Supporters

The individuals you associate with have a significant influence on your habits. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, if your friend becomes obese, you stand the risk of obesity by 57% even if that friend lives some miles away. [3]

Other studies also added that we tend to adopt the same lifestyle, goals, and aspirations of the company we keep. If you want to stop smoking, you need to dissociate yourself from friends who smoke.

8. Practice Positive Speaking

Peradventure you have made these statement in the past:

‘This situation is seemingly hopeless.’

‘I don’t think I can go through this.’

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‘I will never be able to break through this situation.’

‘I will give it a shot, but…’

‘It’s just disgusting.’

If you have made any of these statements, then you have been reinforcing bad habits. Psychological studies have found that the subconscious provides meaning to what it hears. Your thought pattern and your body will align with your words. Thus, if you desire more success, peak performance, and more connections, begin to speak positive words every time you open your mouth.

The power to stop bad habits is in your words. The ability to make a good impression and create opportunities is in the words you speak.

9. Meditate to Knock Out That Bad Habit

Your life derives definitions from what you repeatedly do, not what you do once in a while. Thus, developing a knock-out strategy on how to stop bad habits is a must and not an option for total transformation.

A lot of individuals have at least one or two bad habits they wish to discard. Some people are heavy smokers, and they want to quit. Some others aspire to minimize their consumption of sugar and alcohol. Some people are also battling with less dangerous habits such as nail-biting, nose picking, and they find it difficult to let go.

Several practices exist on how to stop those bad habits. Meditation is of them.

People who practice mindfulness and meditation achieves two things:

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First, they become more self-aware. As you start to meditate, you progressively penetrate each layer of your being and move beyond the delusions and lies that you often believe about yourself.

Second, they focus on reality and what they desire. Meditation assists in identifying what will satisfy you beyond what those bad habits can. You will learn how to stop bad habits by visualizing reality while discarding the bad behavior.

In a recent study, researchers Marlatt, Rose, Pagano, and Marques studied the impact of meditation and other organized relaxation exercises among heavy social drinkers.[4] They discovered that the respondents who have histories of substantial social drinking but began to engage in meditation experienced a significant decrease in the consumption of alcohol. This means meditation can help on how to stop bad habits and illicit personal improvement in your behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Bad habits will prevent you from reaching your full potentials. Establish a commitment timeline to avoid procrastination and excuses. It could be a 21-day or one-month timeframe.

It takes a higher force to dispel an effect. It takes words to overcome thoughts. Habits are the outcome of a cycle. It starts from a feeling(positive or negative), it culminates into a thought(positive or negative), then leads to action. An action is a thought that implement. Repeated action forms a habit.

If you don’t like the outcome, block the source, which is the feeling by speaking the right words.

Your words empower you to take control of how you feel. If you need to wake up early, for instance, you need to tell your body to rise and shine. If you don’t, your feeling will entice you to sleep more.

Learn more about breaking bad habits and sticking to good ones:

Featured photo credit: Jason Briscoe via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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