Breaking a bad habit

Snoozing your alarm 10 times, biting nails, procrastinating endlessly? It’s easy to fall into bad habits, but how do we develop them and, most importantly, how do we stop?

CREDIT: This is an edited version of article that originally appeared on Happiful 

We all have bad habits, right? And that’s often the problem. It’s easy to make excuses to ourselves about the things we do because, well, everyone else is doing them too.

Habits make life easier – it’s a pattern of behaviour we can slide in to for a little R&R from constant decision making but, sometimes, we fall into them to make up for something else in our lives – maybe you’re snoozing your alarm because you stayed up late reading, and your body is craving rest?

“Even though the habit might be bad, the intention probably isn’t,” says Life Coach Directory member, Rachel Coffey. “We need to look at the situation we are trying to avoid, and deal with it – that way we can make a choice that is caring for ourselves.”

Maybe you’re prone to procrastination, or a sucker for self-deprecation. Whatever the habit you want to break, we’ve got six tips to get you started, allowing space for more positive behaviours to begin.

Understand your triggers

“Instead of feeling bad, or punishing yourself, realise that there will have been a logical reason why this started. The question is, ‘Does it fit with where you are now?” says Rachel.

Try to be conscious of when your bad habit next rears its head. Keep a notebook, or use the notes feature on your ‘phone, to write down your emotions in this moment, the timing, where you are, and anything that may have just happened. In this way, you might be able to pick up on a pattern, and have a better understanding of what could be triggering your behaviour.

Take your time

Once you’re aware of a bad habit, it’s incredibly tempting to try to cut it out immediately, but have patience with yourself. Breaking a habit is hard, and you’re more likely to maintain long-term results if you work gradually. Start small – if your habit is smoking, try cutting down the number of cigarettes you smoke a day, little by little.

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Find a new ‘pay-off’

Most habits tend to have a pay-off – even if it’s not long-term. Rachel explains that the new behaviour has to be worth more to us than the old one. “Never leave a gap where a pay-off was, as your subconscious brain could find a way back,” she explains. “Hone-in on something that genuinely feels good. Imagine it in your mind, creating a new neural pathway, and consciously carry out your new habit.” Rachel believes that, if you fill that ‘reward’ void effectively, it will start to work and replace your old habit.

Have positive reminders

Particularly helpful if you notice that a certain place or time triggers your habit, setting yourself calendar alerts, or leaving a sticky note around your house or desk, could help you to stay on track. Try to frame these messages positively, encouraging yourself – be your own cheerleader for those most-needed moments.

Know your motivation

“Never change a habit because you feel you ‘should’, or for someone else,” explains Rachel. “Your happiness needs to be at the heart of it. Once you take care of yourself, you will have more time to be there for everyone else.”

Stick with it

Breaking a habit isn’t easy, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. In the long run, if the new habit is worth more than the old one, it will stick.

We’re all human, so cut yourself some slack, and know that tomorrow is a new day. Let’s try again.

Rachel Coffey is a life coach encouraging confidence and motivation. Find out more at rachelcoffeycoaching.com

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