Six Steps to Breaking Bad Habits
Does this sound familiar -- you know something is bad for you and you want to stop but you just can’t?
Almost 70% of smokers say they would love to quit and so many people want to lose weight but can’t lay off the sweets. Bad habits can be hard to break because they can trigger the brain’s reward center, releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine. This can set up potentially harmful routines, such as overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, and even compulsive use of computers and social media.
However, breaking bad habits can be done says Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University. His studies have led him to conclude that “self-control is like a muscle. Once you’ve exerted some self-control, like a muscle it gets tired, but...any regular act of self-control will gradually exercise your ‘muscle’ and make you stronger.”
In other words, stay with it and it gets easier. Here are six steps to get on the road to breaking bad habits...
Don't just say you want to quit something. Spend time thinking about why you want to stop and how you will go about it. Write down why you want to quit your habit and how you will feel when you don't have it anymore.
If you open the freezer and see ice cream, it might be automatic to just grab it and start eating. Hide it in the back of the freezer or stop buying it if you cannot resist. A cue triggers our routine, we get the reward from it, and then we repeat it. Avoid the cue, end the habit.
Some people find they can replace a bad habit, even drug addiction, with another behavior, like exercising. It may not work for everyone, but it is worth a try.
When we do the same thing over and over, it can be hard to stop. Change up your routine and get out of the environment. For instance, if you go on smoke breaks in the parking lot of your office, avoid going out in the first place. If going into the break room encourages you to indulge in the donuts or cake that someone brought in, avoid the break room.
People have bad habits because they get some satisfaction or psychological reward when they do them. Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of your habits, retrain your mind to think of the negatives. For instance, smoking might be satisfying but it can cause illness, it makes you smell and it costs money.
Breaking bad habits is not easy, so be good to yourself. Take baby steps and focus on one habit at a time. Small changes can add up.