We’ve all been at a point where we say we’re going quit a bad habit or two but can never commit to it. Be it smoking, excessive drinking, binge-watching, or eating too much junk food—we already know losing it will do us a lot of good and yet it is so difficult to break the habit.
As difficult as it may seem, kicking bad habits can actually be accomplished. Here are some of the ways that can get you started on becoming a better, healthier person:
1. Figure out what triggers your bad habits
For a lot people, stress and anxiety triggers an urge to smoke a cigarette. For others, a need to blend in at parties and other social events triggers a bout of heavy drinking. Whatever bad habit you’re trying to break, the first thing to do is to understand what triggers you to do it every time. Think of your bad habit as a symptom of a larger problem that you are having—addressing its cause would also mean losing the habit entirely.
2. Take small but sure steps
Quitting cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone. If you can manage it, then good for you! But don’t feel bad if you can’t. Taking small but certain steps towards breaking a bad habit might even be better in the long run because by the time you actually kick the habit, you would have realized that you don’t really need it. If you have a habit of snacking nonstop on junk food, for example, try limiting your daily intake every week until you can finally drop it altogether. Use a calendar to plan out then keep track of your process. If you fall off the wagon, don’t be afraid to start again. The important thing to remember is that trying in itself is already a step in the right direction.
3. Fine yourself for every offense
Attaching monetary value to every offense is a good way to “trick” yourself into kicking your bad habit. That’s why a lot of people have swear jars when they are trying to stop cursing all the time. To get yourself motivated, fine yourself every time you fall of the wagon. Make sure to set a specific amount, too, rather than just putting in whatever change happens to be in your pocket. Bigger offenses should have bigger penalties. For example, you should have to put a larger amount of money if you drank six bottles of beer rather than two bottles. It would also help if you knew that you would actually lose the money. While it’s in the jar, you’re probably thinking you will still end up having it. So, you need to settle where the money will go. There’s an alarm app that sends $0.25 of your money to a charity every time you press the snooze button. Maybe you can do the same with your money jar?
4. Find a buddy
It’s always easier to accomplish something if you have someone who’s going through the same thing. If you’re trying to quit smoking, convince some of your smoker friends to quit with you. You can keep each other motivated and sympathize with each other if you fall of the wagon. It’s also helps to have someone to share the little triumphs with. If you’ve gone from 10 to 8 cigarettes a day, they’ll know that that’s already something to be proud of.
Similarly, it’s also helpful to have a buddy when you’re trying to form a new and healthy habit. Trying to be more active? Find a gym or jogging buddy. Having someone to chat with can help you actually look forward to the physical activity.
5. Make changes to your routine and environment
Bad habits are often triggered by external factors. Once you figure out what those factors are, you can change them and help yourself kick the bad habits. For example, if you’ve developed a habit of binge eating every time you’re alone, then you should try to always have company for meals. Invite your friends for a brunch date or have your parents over for dinner at your home. If the constant stress at work is making you smoke nonstop, try changing your office space a bit and introduce calming things like plants or a miniature zen garden.
6. Find a replacement habit
Our habits are like small rituals that we do so often we hardly notice them anymore. To kick a bad habit, you need to replace the ritual. To do this, you first need to understand what makes you do it. As we discussed, understanding what triggers your habits will help you address them. So if stress is what keeps you smoking, find another way to deal with it without reaching for a cigarette: you can eat a small snack or take a walk instead. And if you’re constantly snacking on junk food, try replacing them with healthier options like nuts and fruits. Replacing a habit with something better takes less mental effort than it takes to completely eliminate it.