Bad habits aren’t that easy to break.
But it’s so worth it when you can actually break them. So here I am today, telling you how to stop a bad habit with 20 ways. Some of them may work on you, some may not. Each person is different, but I guarantee you that if you follow them, you’ll break your bad habits.
Let’s take bad eating habits as an example, okay? It’s something I’m trying to cut off now, so I can relate to it a lot.
1. Find Your Why
Why do you want to break this habit? How does it harm you? Finding the why is essential, because it’ll give you the strength and the motivation to keep going when your will dries out.
For example, I’m trying to stop eating junk food for these reasons:
- First, because I want to be more healthy.
- Second, I want to feel stronger – and eating better gives me more energy.
- Third, because I want to lose some weight.
Depending on the day, I remind myself one or all of these reasons to keep me going. One of them works on me.
2. Habit Tracking App
Use a habit tracking app to help you track your progress. The one I use isn’t in English so I can’t recommend it to you, but here is a list with some great habit tracking apps.
I’ll probably try Habitica at some point, it seems interesting and I do love video games.
3. Replace it with a Good Habit
Instead of saying that you want to stop a bad habit, just try to start doing the opposite and focus on that. For example, I could say that I need to stop eating:
- fast food
- fried food
Or I can say that I need to eat more:
- white meat
- Instead of trying to watch less TV, read more books.
- Instead of trying to be less miserable, try to be happier.
Focus on the positive stuff! On what you can do and not on what you can’t.
The 2-minute rule
4. Remove Temptations
Breaking a bad habit is difficult on its own. Trying to do it while having temptations around you is nearly impossible.
- Do you want to lose weight? Don’t have sweets at home.
- Do you want to stop watching so much TV? Have the remote control away from your bed so that you need to stand up and go to turn it on. Such a simple thing, but it makes a difference.
5. Make Sticking to the New Habit Easier than the Alternative
Try to make it easier for you to follow your new habit instead of the old one.
That’s why I always keep healthy and tasty food at home. So I don’t feel tempted to go out and get junk food. It’s way easier to open the fridge and warm up the food. Or if you try to wake up early, leave the blinds open. It’s not so easy to stay asleep if you have the sun blinding you.
6. Find someone you can Trust to help you
Find a friend you trust to keep you accountable for your actions and talk to them about what you’re trying to do. Ask them to track you down daily to see if you’ve done anything you shouldn’t.
If they want to break the same habit, so much the better. You can keep track of each other and motivate each other when one of you feels down or disappointed.
7. Don’t Overreact to Failure
- Watching 5 minutes more TV than you said you would won’t destroy the whole process.
- Eating one chocolate cookie won’t destroy your whole diet.
- Forgetting to wash the dishes once won’t make your home a mess.
Don’t overreact to little incidents. Leave them behind and keep going with your new routine. Don’t give up at the first sign of failure.
8. Create a plan B
Be prepared for the time when failure comes. Make a plan B to follow when you go off schedule. You need to say to yourself:
“If I fail, I’ll follow plan B, but I won’t give up.”
So when you fail, you won’t feel like everything goes to hell and you won’t give up. Because you have already planned this. You’ll just follow plan B and then keep going with your routine.
Plan B can be a small punishment. For example, let’s say you’re trying to limit your alcohol consumption, but you go to a bachelor party and drink more than you should. Plan B can be that you can’t drink an alcoholic beverage for the next week/2 weeks/a month. Choose something effective as a punishment, but still doable.
9. Write the End Result on a paper and Stick it on a wall
This way, you’ll see it every day. Put it on a room you are a lot and, if possible, where it can be more effective.
- Trying to cut off sweets? Put it on the fridge door.
- Trying to stop watching TV? Over or on the TV.
- Trying to save more water? Put it on your bathroom door.
Instead of the end result, you can also write an insult like: “Do you really want to destroy the planet today?” It may be more effective – and a little funnier.
10. Recognise triggers
Sit down and think of the situations when there’s a higher chance to cheat. When you’re tired? Sleepy? Hungry? Sad? Angry? Disappointed? Lonely? When you’re out alone? With friends? With family?
Then find ways to stay away from these situations as much as you can.
For example, I eat more sweets when I’m sad. Now, it’s not like I can decide that I’ll never be sad again in my life. (Even though, I’d be okay with that. 😀 ) But I also eat sweets if I get out at night while hungry. This is a situation I can do something about. So before going out, I make sure I eat something at home.
11. Get away
Sometimes it’s not situations that depend on us, but it’s the environment around us that encourages these bad habits.
- If your friends drink a lot, there’s a higher possibility that you’ll drink more often.
- If your friends don’t work out regularly, you have fewer chances of doing it yourself.
You are the average of the 5 people that are closer to you.
12. Use commitment devices
If you find it difficult to stick to the new habit, blackmail yourself! Cruel, but effective!
13. Set reminders
Set up reminders throughout the day to remind you what you’re trying to achieve and why you’re trying to achieve it.
Just set the reminder at different times throughout the day. The first time I tried this, I set up the reminders at the same time every day. At 12 pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm. It ended up as a way for me to tell time. After the first couple of days – when I was actually reading what the reminder said – every time I heard the reminder, I was: “Oh, it’s 6 already?”
14. Reward yourself
Have a weekly goal and every time you reach it, reward yourself. But be careful! The reward shouldn’t be related to your old habit.
- If you’re trying to walk 20 miles/week, the reward shouldn’t be to stay a day without moving from your couch.
- If you’re trying to stop watching too much TV, the reward shouldn’t be to watch your favourite TV show all in one day.
What are you trying to do? Saying to yourself that the old habit is good and that’s a reward? Nope! That’s the wrong approach. Instead, organise a night out with friends, a movie night with your better half or a family dinner. Stay connected with your closed ones and with people that encourage you to follow your dreams and help you to reach your goals.
15. Make it a challenge
We always get more fired up when we have a challenge ahead of us. So make a bet with a friend that you can actually do it and tell them to hold you accountable.
A little more extreme than just asking someone to track you, but definitely a good motivating technique is to bet money on it. There are also apps that can help you with this, and if you lose the bet, the money will go to the app.
Would you really want to waste money on it? No? Well, then you better stick to your plan!
16. Change your routine to fit your new habit
- If you try to wake up earlier, find something to do in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll get bored.
- If you try to lose weight, realise that you’ll be eating smaller portions, so cook less to not have leftovers.
- If you decided to start running, get the right equipment – starting with good running shoes.
17. Change your mindset
Most things are just in your mind.
- When you’re afraid of failure, it’s in your mind.
- When you believe that you need to be perfect, it’s in your mind.
- When you’re getting stressed, it’s all in your mind.
The same way, when you’re trying to start a new habit or break an old one, everything is in your mind. It’s all about the mindset. If you believe you can do, then you will.
Believe you can
And you’re halfway there.
Especially if you tried and failed before, it’s difficult to believe that you can actually do it, but guess what? You can. It takes only once to succeed in stopping a bad habit.
Why can’t this one be the one?
18. Try it only for 30 days
If you think you can’t do it for a long time, set a time limit. Follow your new habit for 30 days. They’re not that many, right?
Still, 30 days are enough to form a new habit. So start with these and see how it goes at the end of the month. Then you’ll see how you’ll go from there. But for the first month, think only these 30 days. If you want to, you can even get a calendar and mark the 30th day, so you can see it getting closer.
19. Be patient
Patience is a virtue that only few have. Good for them.
The rest of us have a tendency to want everything here and now. But for some things, it’s worth to wait for. Waiting makes the reward sweeter, doesn’t it?
20. Don’t Procrastinate
Start now! Don’t try to delay saying (ahem… lying) to yourself one of these beautiful excuses:
- I don’t have the time now.
- I’m too stressed now.
And my favourite…
- I’ll start on Monday.
So these are the tips I recommend you to try if you want to stop a bad habit. Number 20 is the best one, so start now! Let me know what you think about my tips and what other tips you have to help me stop my bad habits. I’d love some help!
If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer! Any suggestions are always welcome, so tell me about topics you’d like me to write. And if you liked this, check out more about procrastinating.
See you next time!