There's a reason it's hard to kick a bad habit – it's well, a habit – a behaviour that has become so much a part of ourselves that we do it unconsciously. Good habits are well and good – they mean we readily drink plenty of plain water, exercise regularly, save money, and do other things beneficial to our wellbeing and life. But bad habits, well – they are called ‘bad' for a reason. To kick a habit, it takes conscious effort, patience, will power and a good plan.
- There's no time like the present
Want to kick a bad habit? Do it now. Make no more excuses. Tell yourself today is the day to be a better person.
- Acknowledge your bad habit
Stop rationalising why you smoke, bite your nails, are pessimistic or procrastinate. The buck stops here with you. Admit your problem and accept that you must work to change it.
- Make the change for yourself
Often, we are compelled to change habits for the sake of others. This can be powerful motivation, but you will also need to make the change for yourself. Seek a deeper reason within yourself. Give yourself a meaningful reason to change – something you believe in deeply.
- Identify your triggers
Bad habits often crop up at specific times, situations or when you experience certain emotions. Find these triggers and eliminate them or change them. Once you've identified these triggers and changed or gotten rid of them, the routine that leads to the bad habit is changed and you become more aware of what you are doing.
- Have a plan
Successful outcomes stem from having a good plan. Address how you plan to break the habit, such as the steps you will take, the time you plan to overcome it in and the milestones you will celebrate. Also plan for how to tackle any slip-ups. Commit to your plan by writing it down and telling people about it. Use the 21 Day App to help you in your journey.
- Find some support, people or otherwise
Make it harder for yourself to lapse back into your bad habit. Tell others that you are trying to quit and get them to remind you about your commitment. Use a nicotine patch to reduce cravings or protect you nails with bitter-tasting nail polish. Use a chart or graph to keep track of your success with focusing on your work or getting your tasks done.
- Find an alternative
To wean yourself off your bad habit, try finding a healthier solution to replace that ‘empty spot' that your bad habit once inhabited. Chew sugar-free gum to reduce cravings for a cigarette or to bite your nail, swap apple slices for potato chips or wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it each time you feel the urge to lapse.
- Go the distance
It takes time to drop a bad habit and cultivate new ones – give yourself at least 3 weeks if not more. Understand that change does not occur overnight and be patient with yourself. Remind yourself that it is not going to be easy, but one day gained is another day of success.
- Push past the pain
It's going to be frustrating even demoralising when the cravings hit, but remind yourself to be strong. Focus on the good outcomes and revisit your plan to see how far you have come.
- Reward yourself
When you've come to a milestone, celebrate it with something positive and constructive. Tell your friends and family so that they can share in your success.