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Published on November 7, 2019

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

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 7 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]

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.

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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.’

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

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‘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:

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.

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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

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

What Really Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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