Breaking bad habits can be a bit of a challenge. However, when it comes to habits, bad can be relative. Thus, it is safe to say any habit that is detrimental to your reputation, career or general wellbeing can be considered a bad habit. Much of the time, bad habits are also hard to break simply because they begin as enjoyable activities which we want to repeat and when we engage in pleasurable activities, our brain releases dopamine, a chemical that activates the brain’s reward centre.
This spurs us to want to do those things again, and with time, the activity becomes a habit. The good news however is that bad habits can be broken although not without considerable effort. Research shows that on average, you’ll need to engage in an alternative behaviour or thought pattern consistently for an average of 66 days for it to become a habit although this can vary from 18 to 254 days, depending on the individual and the habit in question. The following strategies can help you get on your way to freedom from those habits that are starting to get you worried:
1. Admit that there’s a habit problem: The key to breaking any bad habit is first of all acknowledging that the habit has actually become detrimental to you. Sometimes it may take a third party to even help you identify that there’s a problem. Once you are through the admittance phase, you are very well on your way to breaking the habit.
2. Know what approach suits you: When it comes to breaking a habit, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For some people, they may have the discipline to stop a habit altogether at once while some may require gradual reduction in their indulgence of the behavior overtime. Just know what works for you so that you don’t end up frustrating yourself.
3. Limit socialising with people that spur on the habit: This is very important. Bad company corrupts good manners, the same way any progress you’ve made can easily get ruined by a single wrong interaction. For instance, if you’re trying to quit smoking or drinking, hanging out with friends who still smoke and drink may pretty much undo all your efforts so avoid such till you’re sure you’ve overcome the habit completely.
4. Consider a change of environment: Certain behaviours can overtime become associated with a particular kind of environment and changing your environment can help minimize the urge to indulge yourself. Also new environments can also support and encourage the development of new and better habits.
5. Get a smart habit to replace the bad: Nature, they say abhors vacuum. When you are working towards ridding yourself of a bad habit, a wise thing to do will be to practice a good habit in its place. The better habit you are trying to form should preferably oppose the occurrence of the bad until eventually the bad habit gets flushed out.
6. Be patient and don’t be hard on yourself: Rome, it is said, wasn’t built in a day. You can’t expect to break a habit you formed over several years in a couple of days. You may fail sometimes but don’t beat yourself up and most importantly, don’t stop trying.
Also set milestones for yourself to make things easier and reward yourself when you hit each mark. That way you are subconsciously encouraged to drive yourself till you succeed. Bad habits are the wild winds that blow the candle of our destiny away. The earlier we all sort them out and find a beautiful path in life to follow, the better for us. Yes we can.