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How to break a bad habit with 3 steps



We've all tried to break a bad bad habit in our life, and we know just how tough that can be. Habit breaking can be a long process, so don't think this will happen overnight.


Habits work on a reward-based method, which includes the following:

  • The trigger (what starts the habit)

  • The behaviour (the doing of the habit)

  • The reward (the benefit or satisfaction of the habit)

Let's say you smoke. Your habit loop would look something like this:

  • The trigger (you see and smell someone smoking)

  • The behaviour (you pull out a cigarette and light it)

  • The reward (stress relief and satisfaction)

It's crucial to realise the more you repeat a habit over and over the easier, it will become for your brain to start making a pattern. Trigger, Behaviour and Reward are how habits are created and these three elements show up every time we perform a habit.


How to break a bad habit.


Using mindfulness

Mindfulness shows us what’s going on at any given moment, so we can assess and take notes of our actions and surroundings. We can use mindfulness to our advantage and notice when potential triggers are going to set off. To be mindful, you need to be curious about what’s going on. When you become more curious, you walk out of your usual reactive state and step into the present. This then gives you the advantage to notice what is going on around you.


Make note of your habit loops

Now that you can be mindful in your daily life, it's now important for you to start taking notes. Take a book around with you or use your phone and make notes of when you performed bad habit.


Ask yourself the following:

  • Why do I feel like this?

  • What happened just now that made me feel like this?

  • Where were was I when I felt this craving?

  • What time or point during the day did this happen?

  • Who was I with?


Ask these questions and start creating a habit journal. You can then look back at this and see if there are any patterns in which you can avoid.


Create a plan of action

So you have your notes and you're being mindful. Instead of going cold turkey, it's always best to replace a bad habit with a good one. We're creatures of habit so it's good to have a plan so that you're more mindful of how to beat bad habits.


Let's say you commute home from work, when you step off the train you light a cigarette and start to walk home. The next day you do the same thing, however this time you left your cigarettes at home. When you step off the train you then realise you cannot smoke. What do you do? Replace that habit with a good one. This can be things like listening to a podcast, drinking a full bottle of water before you get home or even calling a friend. The final step is to reward yourself when you get home.


Remember, trigger, behaviour and reward. The trigger is getting off the train, the behaviour is now a good habit and the reward, of course, can be anything you choose, like watching a tv show you enjoy. Of course, you don't want to replace a poor habit with another poor habit.


It's important to be patient when it comes to breaking bad habits and developing good ones. You're not going to break a bad habit overnight, so it's important to take your time and follow the steps above. You will have good and bad days, but it's important to keep pushing because eventually, you will break it.

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