How to Break a Bad Habit

Habits are the set of regularly repeated things that we do with little or no thought and are learned rather than innate. It ranges from the patterns of learning, eating, sleeping, reacting, and thinking. Some habits are good while others can range from harmless to harmful. Most of the time simple habits save us from the trouble of making thousands of decisions in a day. This way we can give space to our minds to think about the things that are more important. Such as habits like going to the office through the same route, eating the same breakfast every day, or having dinner in front of the TV.

But bad habits can interrupt your life and can be a hurdle in accomplishing your goal. They can cause wastage of time, energy, and other resources. Bad habit addresses a certain need, and for that reason, you need to replace your bad habit with a good one that addresses the same need with the same tendency.

Why Some Habits are hard to break?

Our brain works on triggers and rewards basis which is called the “habit loop”. This makes it easy to slip into a routine and difficult to break this behavior. When we add pleasure factor to our bad habits the “pleasure center” of our brain gets triggered.

 A full 40% of the time our mind is on something else while we complete actions automatically.

The habit loop typically drives through 3 parts with the following sequence:

  • Trigger
  • Routine
  • Reward

For example, you have a habit of taking a short nap during your lunch break at your workplace. Let’s fit this habit into the segments of the “habit loop”.


Stress and boring atmosphere at the workplace is the stimulus that has started the habit.


You take a nap daily at your workplace.


It releases your stress and you feel less burdened.

The reason why it can be so hard to break a bad habit is that there are parts of your brain that associate your cravings with the bad habits.

Why Do We Develop Bad Habits?

Stress and Boredom

In most of the cases, we use a bad habit to deal with stress and our boring routines. Sometimes the stress or boredom that is on the surface is caused by deeper issues. Every time we bite our nails, take drugs, overspend our money on the things that we don’t even need, and waste our time on the internet or with “not so good” company of friends, we are stressing over something and we are trying not to think about it.

But in order to get rid of a bad habit, it is necessary to find out what we are stressing over and we need to be honest with ourselves, so we can find a solution.

Find out what are the reasons that are causing you to fall prey to a bad habit. Is it the fear, the event, the person, or something else that is causing you to hold onto something bad?

How to Break a Bad Habit?

The following ways can be helpful for you to design good habits and eliminate the bad one:

Identify your Triggers

Finding your triggers will be the first step to break a bad habit. Triggers are the factors that tend you do certain behaviors. For Instance; if you are a smoker, then the trigger will be the “work break”.

Knowing the triggers can be more helpful than you think. Such as in this case, you can make a few changes after realizing that free time and boredom is causing you to smoke. Maybe you can take a book or chewing gum with you at the workplace and can read the book or chew gum instead of smoking in your free time. Also getting rid of the things that remind you of smoking can help you break this habit such as, throwing away your ashtray. If one of your friends smoke, make a distance with that friend for some days until you stop craving cigarettes.

Because seeing other people smoke can lower your morale especially when it’s your friend.   

Choose a Substitute for Your Bad Habit

Some studies have shown that the more you suppress your thoughts, the more likely you are to think about that thought or even revert back to that bad habit. It is because when we control our cravings and tell ourselves that we are not going to do certain things. Your brain will still tell you to do it. But when you give your brain some other task to do instead, then your brain will have some positive action to do.

Like when you are craving to smoke a cigarette, you can read a book or eat chewing gum. This way you can have something better to do in that free time. But breaking a habit and replacing it with a new one requires patience and commitment, so don’t get discouraged if you find it harder than you think.

The key here is mapping this out before that triggers have a chance to kick in.

Find Better Reason for Quitting

Finding an intrinsic motivation is important because you know that the new habit won’t give you the same satisfaction as the previous one did. So, laying out the pros of the new habit and cons of the old one can make a difference.

For instance; your brain knows that cigarette is injurious to health and chewing gum does not do such a thing. Hence, quitting smoking is good for your health. Focusing on the pros of quitting smoking can be a source of constant motivation for you.

Like non-smokers have a longer and healthier life, which means you can spend more years with your friends and family, or you can have more time for achieving your goal. 

Make Someone Your Bad Habit Breaking Partner

How many times have you tried breaking a bad habit or tried to lose some weight? But couldn’t succeed? Now try this! Make a pair with someone who can do this with you.

The two of you can motivate each other and push each other in the time of failure. Also, you both can stick to the same plan and set of rules, this way you two can have a check on each other. You can also celebrate your accomplishments together.

Having someone to help you out and knowing that someone is expecting from you can be the greatest motivation.    

Get Support from the People Who are Living the Way You Want to Live

Try to make out with those friends that inspire you the most. If none of your friends inspires you, go find new friends. It does not mean that you should ditch your old friends but simply don’t miss out on opportunities to learn new things. Because each friend comes with his own set of rules and habits and it is also true that our friends reflect our personality.

Talk to your friend about going to get a quick cup of coffee together rather than standing outside with your cigarettes.

Set Better Goals

Top-level players, businessmen, and achievers set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. To break a bad habit, it is important to set a short term goal so that you can invest your energy into something useful.

Just like how sunlight can’t burn through anything without a magnifying glass focusing it, you can’t achieve anything without a goal is focusing your effort. Goals are also a way of measuring your achievements, which will keep you motivated and you will not become a victim to stress again which ultimately causes you to adopt a bad habit.

Create a one-year plan, six-month plan, and a one-month plan of progressively smaller goals that you should reach to achieve your lifetime goals. Each of these should be based on the previous plan. Then create a daily To-Do List of things that you should do today to work towards your lifetime goals

Stay Consistent and Have Patience

One thing about battling bad habits is that it’s easy to judge yourself for not acting better. Every time you slip up or make a mistake, it’s easy to tell yourself how much you suck. So rather than beating yourself up over a mistake, plan for it. We all get off track, what separates top performers from everyone else is that they get back on track very quickly.

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Numira baig

Numira is an author of Blogsy and eloquent in writing about challenging and not-so-common topics. She is one of our editors as well.

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