Everyone has a behavior or two that might be considered a “bad” habit. Of course, the word “bad” is thrown around pretty easily when we talk about habits. Many of our so called “bad” habits are actually fairly benign behaviors. Although some “bad” habits may pose a health threat, most common habits are actually more annoying or irksome than they are harmful. It is probably far more accurate to call such habits “unwanted” rather than “bad.”
If you stand in the middle of a crowded room and ask the people around you whether or not they have any “bad” habits that they would like to stop, plenty might answer with a quick and perhaps adamant “no.” But, if you watch the group for a while, you will probably catch a few of the same people who answered “no” doing something other people would consider a “bad” habit…. like clearing their throats repeatedly without a real need to… frequently cracking their knuckles… twirling a finger around a few strands of hair… reaching up to dig around inside an ear…drinking heavily… or leaving the room for multiple cigarette breaks.
As common as our “unwanted” habits may be, they can be very difficult to break. Why? Well, because they are exactly what they are… habits. When you stop to think about it, a lot of our actions in life are done out of habit… or routine. There are countless constructive or “good” habits that help us live our lives in a productive, healthy way.
Most people get up every morning and do the same things in the same sequence before starting the day. We take a shower; brush our teeth; eat our breakfast; walk the dog; call, text, or email our kids or our parents; etc. Then, we go about our days and nights engaging in many other predictable habits.
Living in a predictable way can be fundamental to a manageable life. It is how most of us are programed. But, that same programming can make it very difficult to break an “unwanted” habit that has no beneficial purpose or with a negative impact.
It is not easy to break an “unwanted” habit, especially those that have been around awhile, but it can be done. Some are far more difficult to stop than others, but it is possible to kick a “bad” habit to the curbSetting out to break an “unwanted” habit is a different experience for everyone. We all have to identify the path that works best for us as individuals. The aim is to find an effective way to move forward from the desire to change the behavior to actually changing it. If there’s an “unwanted” habit you would like break, you may find the following suggestions helpful as you head toward your goal.
Pat yourself on the back regularly. Be proud of yourself as you get better and better at circumventing your “unwanted” habit. Give yourself credit each and every time you are tempted to engage in the behavior but choose not to do so. When the time comes – believe it will – that the habit is no longer a constant in your life, make sure to celebrate. Yes, celebrate! You will have accomplished something most people find extremely challenging. Bravo!
Give yourself time, and do not give up. Breaking an “unwanted” habit is not a source of immediate gratification and rarely happens overnight. Understand from the start that changing your behavior will probably be a series of stops and starts. Undoubtedly, you will slip up on occasion. After all, the habit you are trying to break has probably been part of your life for a very long time. It is an automatic, unconscious action you do without any thought, and you will now have to pay attention to it in order to make a change. When you fall back and engage in the habit, think about why it happened and what you can do in the future to keep yourself on track.
Visualize being habit-free. Close your eyes and imagine the positives that will come from eliminating the “unwanted” behavior. See yourself in a situation where you would be likely to engage in the behavior, but envision a picture of yourself minus the habit.
Don’t go it alone. Many people find it helps to tell somebody else when attempting to break an “unwanted” habit. Ask a family member or friend to remind you of your goal if they see you engaging in the behavior you are trying to stop. Also ask the person to remember to be discreet and respect your privacy at all times.
Determine the whys behind the “unwanted” habit. There is a reason behind everything we do, even the things that seem to be unconscious actions. To stop doing something, it helps to know why you are doing it in the first place. Many habits are a source of comfort or a release mechanism for stress. Think about when you tend to do whatever the habit may be and the circumstances, feelings, etc. that cause you to engage in the habit, as well as what you get from the behavior.
Replace the habit. It may be possible to substitute some unwelcome habits with other behaviors that are more acceptable. The incentive behind certain unwanted, embarrassing, or even damaging habits is that they comfort, relieve stress, or help fill boring moments. However, the same benefits often can be achieved through a less unappealing and less obvious means. The idea is to find a more acceptable behavior that can provide the same benefits as your old undesirable habit. It may take some practice, but the new behavior can become your new “welcome” habit.
Make a conscious decision. If you are going to be successful at breaking an “unwanted” habit, the desire will not be enough. You must commit yourself to working toward your goal. You must truly believe that breaking the habit will be worth the effort. Think about all the reasons why you want to break the habit.
Deal with the real problem. If your habit is the result of something in your life that you can change, do whatever is necessary to make that change. For example, if you fidget because you feel uneasy around people you do not know, find ways to work on your social skills. You may find that you will fidget less the more comfortable you are around strangers. In some situations, “unwanted” behaviors may be an unconscious attempt to compensate for overwhelming negative feelings and emotions. It is vital to seek out help from an experienced professional when facing issues related to your mental health and well-being.