We are creatures of habit. From the moment we get out of bed until our eyelids fall heavy again, most of us spend our days jumping from one habitual act to another. Some are good for us, like brushing our teeth. Others, like smoking, aren’t. So how do we break ourselves of a bad habit? The secret is to understand how it forms in the first place.
How Habits Form
Any habit, good or bad, starts with a trigger. Take, for example, feeling tired at work. That trigger is followed by a behavior – like drinking a cup of coffee. That behavior results in a reward – a lightning bolt of I-can-do-anything energy from caffeine. As this reward-based learning pattern repeats over time, a habit forms. Our brain will continue encouraging us to do whatever is needed to reach the “reward,” especially in times of stress. If you’ve developed a pesky habit you’re ready to break, here are 3 simple steps to get you where you want to go.
How to Break a Bad Habit
Step 1: Identify the Trigger
Think of the habit you’re trying to break – smoking cigarettes, turning to junk food for emotional comfort, binge-watching reality TV. Then, pay attention to what’s happening around you when you do these things. Are you with certain people? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you stressed? Once you identify the trigger, it allows you to redirect the behavior that’s likely to follow.
Step 2: Decide If the Reward is Worth It
How do you feel when you engage in that bad habit? Does it move you closer to reaching your goals? Is this habit one of the person you aspire to become? Taking time to reflect on these questions will help you figure out if the momentary reward is worth the consequences of the behavior. At the end of the day, only you have the power to make that decision.
Step 3: Find a More Rewarding Reward
Bad habits address certain needs in your life, which won’t just disappear at will. So, instead of trying to stop doing something, start doing something else! Simply replace your bad habit with one that better serves you. Swap your cigarette for a piece of sugar-free gum, indulge in a healthy snack if you’re feeling upset, replace your open-ended Netflix session with a short meditation.
Just remember, it’s about finding what works for you! Commit to making a change and tweak as you go. Making the decision to break a bad habit is half the battle. Reach out to Coach Bridgit for help on building good new habits.