How to Break a Habit?

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How to Break a Habit?

Everyone has habits, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. Some are pretty useful — maybe you lay out your clothes for work the night before or automatically turn off the lights when you leave a room.

But other habits, such as biting your nails, drinking caffeine too late in the day, or hitting snooze too many times, might not be so beneficial.

Breaking unwanted habits can be difficult, especially if you’ve been engaging in them for a long time. But understanding how habits form in the first place can ease the process.

The making of a habit

There are a few theories around how habits develop. The idea of the 3 Rs is one of the main ones:

Reminder. This is a trigger, or cue, that could be a conscious behavior, such as flushing the toilet, or a feeling, such as nervousness.

Routine. This is the behavior associated with the trigger. Flushing the toilet cues you to wash your hands, while feeling nervous triggers biting your nails. Doing something over and over can make the behavior routine.

Reward. The reward associated with a behavior also helps make a habit stick. If you do something that causes enjoyment or relieves distress, the pleasurable release of dopamine in your brain can make you want to do it again.

Identify your triggers

Remember, triggers are the first step in developing a habit. Identifying the triggers behind your habitual behaviors is the first step in moving past them.

Focus on why you want to change

Why do you want to break or change a certain habit? Research from 2012Trusted Source suggests it may be easier to change your behavior when the change you want to make is valuable or beneficial to you.

Enlist a friend’s support

If you and a friend or partner both want to break an unwanted habit, try to do it together.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness can help you develop awareness around your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This practice involves simply observing impulses that relate to your habit without judging them or reacting to them.

Replace the habit with a different one

You might have an easier time breaking a habit if you replace the unwanted behavior with a new behavior, instead of simply trying to stop the unwanted behavior.

Leave yourself reminders

Using stickers, sticky notes, or other visual reminders wherever the habit behavior happens can help you rethink the action when something triggers you.

Prepare for slipups

Breaking a habit can be challenging, though you might find some habits easier to shake than others.

Let go of the all-or-nothing mindset

Accepting you’ll probably slip up a few times when trying to break a habit and coming up with a plan is one thing. Preventing feelings of frustration and failure when you do slip up is another story.

Start small

Trying to kick multiple habits in the same go? The image of a new, improved self can be a powerful motivator, especially when you first decide to change unwanted habits.

Change your environment

Your surroundings can sometimes have a big impact on your habits.

Visualize yourself breaking the habit

Breaking habits doesn’t have to be an entirely hands-on, physical process. You can practice new replacement habits mentally, too.

Practice self-care

Many people find it easier to create positive changes in life when they begin from a place of wellness.

Motivate yourself with rewards for success

Remember, breaking a habit can be incredibly difficult. Make sure to acknowledge how far you’ve come, and try to give yourself rewards along the way. Even small motivators, like telling yourself what a great job you’re doing, can boost your confidence and increase your drive to keep trying.

Give it time

There’s a common myth that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. But where does that figure come from?

Know that you don’t have to do it alone

You might have success breaking some habits, such as buying lunch every day or skipping the gym, on your own, with a bit of effort and dedication.
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