How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

The World’s Worst Habits

Three of the world’s worst habits today are cursing, procrastination, and lying. These worst habits that we are currently facing, is making this world what it is today. It is a fact when I say that we have all done these bad habits, in addition, at least one of these three worst habits we do every day without even noticing it. Even though it may not seem like it, Cursing, procrastinating, and lying is currently influencing our world today. I will talk about them in the following. To be honest, I do not go through a day without hearing a curse word. This habit is so bad that people don’t even notice it when they do it. I consider this a very bad habit because people that get caught in the habit of cursing a lot, often have a bad reputation. Having a bad reputation affects a person in so many ways. Besides being disrespectful, people that are constantly cursing, loose a lot of friends and even job opportunities. The way we talk and the language that we use is influenced a lot by the people we are around all the time. Due to the diversity in culture, this world consists of many people who act and do things differently. This affects the way we talk to each other whether it’s with friends or family. The worst part of this habit is that children listen to these curse words being said all the time. A person who grows up around a group of people who are very proper and speak eloquently tends to incorporate that into the way he or she talks. If a person grows up around people who curse constantly, obviously that person is going to grow up to use vulgar language. The habit of cursing is more series than it seems and it definitely has to be on the top of the list for world’s worst habits. Also, another bad habit that is very common around the world is procrastination. Waiting for the last minute to get things done is something I struggle with like many other people do as well. One of the biggest reasons why assignments get a bad mark or are.

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How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

Being unhealthy doesn’t always have to do with our weight; we can be unhealthy in mind and spirit, as well. We can carry excess baggage not only in our thighs and stomachs, but in our hearts and emotions, too. Ultimately, though, our habits make or break us – we can either choose something that will make us healthier or make us sicker. We have the freedom to decide who we will date, who we will hang out with in our precious spare time, and if we will cook dinner or take out.

After a while, our habits become our lifestyle, so it’s important to try to make healthy choices as much as possible. You wouldn’t put the wrong type of gas in your car, so why fuel yourself with unhealthy habits that will only make you half-full anyway?

In this article, we’d like to point out a few common habits of unhealthy people so that you can recognize these in yourself perhaps, and have a chance to start doing things differently.

Here are 6 habits that unhealthy people usually have:

Do you have healthy habits? Or do you follow these practices?

1. A negative attitude

Having a bad attitude can set us up for a slew of problems, both mental and physical. Unhealthy people tend to have a more negative outlook on the world, and this can carry over into thoughts about themselves and lead to health issues.

For example, a 2014 study published in the journal Neurology linked high levels of cynicism later in life to an increased risk of dementia compared to more trusting, open people, even when accounting for other variables such as heart condition, age, sex, smoking habits, etc.

Let’s take a look at another attitude type: hostility. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Stroke, people who scored higher on unfriendliness, chronic stress and depressive symptoms had a higher risk of stroke than the nicer participants.

Our thoughts really do become reality, and unhealthy people tend to create a negative reality based on pre-existing thoughts about the world around them.

2. Escaping via addictions

Sure, we all need an escape from reality – that’s totally understandable. However, taking out your negative feelings on your mind and body will only lead to destruction and a decline in your health. Unhealthy people often feed into their addictions, however, because they know no other way out. Either they haven’t been shown the proper tools to deal with stress and negative emotions, or they simply cannot bear to face their feelings.

We don’t mean to pass judgment on those suffering from addiction, because it is a disease, and not an easy one to beat. However, addictions tend to be unhealthy, such as an addiction to food, cigarettes, drugs, sex, or alcohol. Some of these things are fine in moderation, but unhealthy people usually take it to the extreme.

3. Constant complaining

With a negative disposition comes the habit of complaining about any and everything. Unhealthy people, instead of focusing on all the good in their lives, tend to put too much emphasis on the bad. Even something small, such as a person getting their order wrong at a restaurant, could be enough to set them off. Unhealthy people don’t know how to stop once they start, which is why it’s a very dangerous habit to have.

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

4. Making excuses

While unhealthy people aren’t just those who are overweight, a common excuse that these type of people make is that they have no time to work out, or are too tired. The “I don’t have time” excuse is among the most popular, and could be used in many situations. Excuses spill out of their mouths left and right, because unhealthy people also have adopted the habit of laziness. This gets them out of doing many things, such as working out, cooking, doing any extra chores, or taking on extra responsibilities at work.

Unhealthy people often make excuses simply because they’d rather continue doing things their way than push themselves out of their comfort zone to see what they could really accomplish.

5. Being too critical of themselves and others

Believe it or not, negative people tend to be perfectionists, which makes them overly critical of themselves and others. They either do everything right, or get nothing done, hence the tendency toward laziness. Sometimes negative, unhealthy people won’t even attempt to try something because of fear of failure, which holds them back in life. In addition to perfectionism, many unhealthy people also have low self-esteem, which in turn leads to being too judgmental of themselves and others.

6. Living in either the past or future

While everyone is guilty of doing this every so often, unhealthy people tend to practice this habit the most. They barely know what’s going on in their own lives because their minds are either ruminating over the past or fretting about the future. Unhealthy people don’t know how to stay grounded and quiet their minds enough to stay focused on their surroundings, and this makes their minds wander. This habit can easily be broken, however, with mindfulness meditation.

Simply sit down in a quiet place and focus on nothing but your breath for at least 30 minutes a day. It will do wonders for your mental health, trust us.

Related Article: Eating Habits That Shorten Your Lifespan

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

Final thoughts

Unhealthy people don’t do these things on purpose, but nonetheless, harmful habits destroy lives after a while. Just like we learn bad habits, we can pick up on good habits as well. All it takes is a commitment to practicing them, and after a short time, they will feel second-nature!

If you recognize any of these habits in your life, take time to write down some healthier habits that you’d like to adopt, and figure out how you can implement them in your life. For example, if you want to start exercising, maybe figure out how you can start small with a couple workouts a week. Figure out what activity you enjoy doing, and just get out there and start! Remember, the only people who fail are those who never take the first step.

December 22, 2017 By Lane Goodwin

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)Good habits get you closer to accomplishing your goals. Bad habits drive you further away from your goals.

Your goals may be losing weight, building muscle, building passive income streams and quit your job, play a musical instrument, write a book, success with women and so on.

Examples of Good Habits

Some examples of good habits are:

  • Exercise
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Practicing art (Playing a musical instrument, painting, sculpting and so on)
  • Working on your business
  • Reading books
  • Writing a journal
  • Spending less money than you make
  • Approaching girls
  • Waking up early
  • Positive thinking
  • Planning

Examples of Bad Habits

Some examples of bad habits are:

  • Watching TV
  • Playing video games
  • Killing time on social media
  • Drinking – smoking – drugs
  • Overspending, getting into debt
  • Eating junk food
  • Gambling
  • Watching porn

Why Do People Have Bad Habits?

Humans are prone to take the path of least resistance. Instant gratification looks more alluring than delayed gratification. For example, if you are bored you may watch TV, kill time on social media, play video games or drink alcohol.

Corporations exploit the human weakness of instant gratification.

Why Is It Hard to Form Good Habits?

Acquiring good habits requires discipline and the ability to delay gratification. At the age of instant gratification, discipline and delayed gratification go neglected.

Bad habits rewire your brain’s reward mechanism in the favor of instant gratification. If you have bad habits, it becomes harder to see the benefits of discipline and delayed gratification.

Why the Habits of the Highly Successful People Look So Out of Reach?

Throughout history, people have always been curious about what makes highly successful people achieve so much.

The habits of highly successful people are no secret. They are studied extensively by many researchers. You read them in books and all over the internet.

The problem is, when you see such a list of habits, it looks not only overwhelming but also boring. Successful people seem like superhumans who live a boring life, so you may think it’s best to not be successful at all.

The good news is, you don’t need to acquire all their habits at once. In this post, I will show you how just one good habit triggers another. Then, another and so on. Like a chain reaction.

How One Good Habit Begets Another

As there are human weaknesses that corporations exploit, there are human strengths you can exploit too.

When humans taste success, they want more.

The trick is, picking up a goal, starting with a habit and practicing it until it sticks.

Here are some examples of how it works:

John wants to lose weight. He starts counting his calories to restrict his eating and he starts to lose weight. Once he sees he is on the way to getting in shape, he is excited. He takes up lifting weights to accelerate the process. After he gets muscular and lean, his confidence soars and he begins to approach girls. When he begins to get girls, he no longer needs to jerk off to porn, so he quits watching porn. After a while, he is bored with the girls in his town. He decides to build a location independent business and move to counties or cities with better girls…

It all started with losing weight but now John is a location independent successful businessman who is in great shape and has a harem of beautiful women.

James is fed up with his job and decides to start a business. He needs to work. He notices that he works better in the mornings. In order to wake up early, he quits drinking. He finds out that when he doesn’t drink and wakes up early, he has the energy to work out. He joins a gym and starts to lift weights in the afternoon. He starts to watch what he eats because he wants to build muscle. Finally, he gets in great shape, his business makes a lot of money and he affords to dress sharp.

It all started with getting up early to start a business, but now James not only has a lucrative business but also he doesn’t drink anymore, is in great shape and dresses sharp.

Start Today

Pick up a goal and start with only one habit to execute every day until it sticks.

Just one good habit can translate to another good habit and, like a chain reaction, you will have multiple good habits working in your favor every day getting you closer and closer to your goals.

Starting with just one good habit, you may eventually become one of those highly successful people.

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How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

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H aving habits can often be a good thing. When you drive to work for example, you don’t need to wonder whether you should turn left or right; the route becomes habit.

“We want the brain to learn how to do those things without energy and effort,” says Russell Poldrack, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. “Habits are an adaptive feature of how the brain works.”

But sometimes, habits can lead us astray—whether it’s turning to comfort food when we’re sad, or taking a cigarette break when stressed.

Since habits take practice and repetition to form, the same is true when it comes to breaking them, says Elliot Berkman, director of the University of Oregon’s Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab. In order to eliminate those pesky habits—whatever they may be—start with these five strategies.

Sink your stress levels

Many habits—including smoking or excess sugar consumption—involve the brain’s dopamine (or reward) system. Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical that transmits signals between neurons in the brain. The first time you engage in a new, “rewarding” behavior, you get a euphoric feeling from doing it as a result of a dopamine release, notes Poldrack. This leads to changes in both the connections between neurons and the brain systems responsible for actions—and can largely account for why we start to form bad habits in the first place.

Many of these rewarding stimuli—like sugar or substances—are powerful, too. And our physiological reaction to them in present day can be linked all the way back to evolution, says Poldrack. In the cavemen days, meat wasn’t salted, dry-rubbed or grilled to perfection. “Our brains aren’t well-equipped to deal with the big rush one gets from these sorts of things,” Poldrack says. As a result, the frontal lobe, the brain’s “control center,” gets overwhelmed, he says.

“You’re more likely to do the thing you don’t want to do when you’re stressed out,” Poldrack says.

There are however, ways to address the root cause of these seemingly detrimental habits.

Some solutions? Try to get more sleep, exercise regularly and opt for stress reduction techniques like meditation, which can all work to increase willpower and overall brain health, says Poldrack.

Know your cues

Habits, Berkman says, have three main parts: a cue, a routine and a reward.

Cues are the context where you tend to engage in the behavior. If you’re a smoker for example, the cue might be work breaks. If you’re a dessert aficionado, it might be simply scouring the dessert menu. “You’re most likely to relapse in the context of when you’ve done it before,” Berkman says.

Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them. Berkman suggests that smokers dispose of items like ashtrays that might remind them of their habit or people who are trying to cut back on drinking should avoid walking by the bar they always pop into for happy hour.

Capitalizing on major life changes can also help break an unhealthy habit. While you might think a cross-country move or a new job is no time to introduce even more changes into your life, Berkman notes that shifts in lifestyle can actually be the ideal opportunity for eliminating a vice. “You’re going into new contexts and situations, so you don’t have those same cues—it’s a chance to form new habits,” he says.

If you’re used to lighting up on your way to work for instance, moving to a new city gives you a chance to take public transportation or to dig into a new podcast instead of a pack of cigarettes, because you are in a new environment, says Berkman.

Replace a bad habit with a good one

Instead of trying to stop doing something—“It’s hard to stop a behavior,” says Berkman—start doing something else.

“We are action-oriented creatures,” says Berkman. 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. A 2008 study in Appetite, found that those who suppressed their thoughts about eating chocolate exhibited a behavioral rebound effect, where they consumed significantly more chocolate than those who didn’t. Similarly, a 2010 study published in Psychological Science found that smokers who tried to restrain their thoughts about smoking wound up thinking about it even more.

If you’re a smoker and you tell yourself not to smoke, your brain still hears “smoke,” Berkman says. Conversely, if you tell yourself to chew gum every time you want a cigarette, your brain has a more positive, concrete action to do, he notes. Similarly, if 5 p.m. has been linked with a glass of wine for years, use it as a time to, instead, double down on hydration and make sure the fridge is stocked with seltzers, cold water and lemon, Berkman says.

But forming a new habit takes time and commitment, so don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you might expect. A 2010 study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology found it took an average of 66 days for a behavior to change (though time varied from 18 to 254 days).

Have a better reason for quitting

Even if you replace a “bad” habit with a better one, sometimes the original vice will have a stronger biological “reward” than its substitute, Berkman says. For example, your brain knows that gum is not nicotine and therefore won’t produce the same euphoric feeling that smoking a cigarette would, he says. This is where the importance of having an intrinsic motivation comes into play.

Intellectually, we know that quitting smoking is good for our health and limiting how many burgers we eat might help us lose weight. But rooting habit changes in specific and personal reasons—giving up smoking for good may mean spending more years with your family or eating healthier may give you more energy for those outdoor adventures you used to enjoy—provides a stronger dose of motivation, says Berkman.

Set better goals

Rather than focusing on a more general goal—like I will not grab a cookie on the way out of the cafeteria—Poldrack suggests imagining more specifically how you’ll implement this goal into your daily life.

Examining how you’ve responded to the situation in the past and determining what you can do to avoid the cookies in the future, might be all it takes to break the habit, says Poldrack. This may mean simply not walking by the rack of sweets itself.

“It’s always going to be easier to react based on something you’ve already planned out in the past versus trying to come up with a new plan on the fly,” Poldrack says.

Plus, thinking about how exactly you’re going to do something helps you develop the mindset that you can do something, he notes. And that’s half the battle.

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

We all have habits that we don’t love that we have. Some of us indulge in a little too much retail therapy, others procrastinate too much at work, while others might spend too much money on cocktails once Friday hits. But the good news is, there are ways to break bad habits and — even better — replace them with new ones. If you feel like you overindulge in things that set you back in certain aspects of your life, you don’t have to live with it. If you were able to create the original bad habit, then you can just as easily create another one to replace it.

And that’s the trick: You don’t just erase a bad habit. Rather, you make things easier for yourself by replacing it with something better. Not only do you take out something bad from your life, but you cultivate a new practice that will help you become more well rounded and productive. But I know what you might be thinking: That bad habit isn’t so easy to kick.

It might not be a breeze, but that shouldn’t be your excuse for not trying. If you buckle down and tackle it systematically, you can totally do it. So without further ado, here are seven ways to break a habit by creating a new one.

1. Pinpoint What Triggers These Bad Habits

You don’t just fall into a bad habit out of the blue — it’s not like you became momentarily possessed and spent all of your grocery money on your Zara app in the span of five minutes. All of your bad habits are triggered by something, and once you figure out those triggers you can begin to block the bad habits.

According to lifestyle writer James Clear at Huffington Post, almost all of our bad habits stem from two things: stress and boredom. “Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the Internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom.” Why is this important?

If you find yourself itching for a cigarette break, reaching for your fourth bag of chips, or fighting a yen to do some damage while online shopping, you can take a step back and pinpoint if you’re bored or stressed at that moment, and not let the feeling take over. That’s step number one.

2. Figure Out The Context Of The Bad Habit

Now that you know that your triggers are most likely boredom or stress, next you need to figure out the context of your habit. Leadership writer Jenna Goudreau from Forbes explained, “The first step to changing a behavior is to examine its context. When, where, how, why and with whom do you perform the habit?” If you feel like you’ve been drinking too much, maybe you should avoid picking up your phone between the hours of five and seven. If you feel like you’ve been on a body shaming spiral, see if it happens the most when certain people are around. By figuring these out, you could make the conscious effort to avoid those triggers and make the habit-breaking easier for you.

3. Find Out What You’d Like To Replace The Bad Habit With

Saying you’ll simply delete a bad habit isn’t realistic — what you need to do instead is replace it with a good one. And in order to do that, you need to come up with a game plan on what to replace it with. Clear offered, “You need to have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit.”

For example, do you feel like procrastinating at work? Instead of popping over to Instagram, give yourself five minutes to read a fun industry-elated article. Or do you have an urge to online shop because you’re bored? Try tiding a part of the room you’re in instead.

4. Schedule Reminders For Yourself About Habit-Breaking

Even though you’re doing well, there will definitely be moments on this journey where you’ll slip and revert back to your old habits, so you need something that will help replace your broken will power. Lifestyle writer Melanie Pinola from Lifehacker suggested, “Try setting up reminders in your calendar for yourself for your weakest moments.” For example, are you tagging along with your friends to the bar when you’ve promised yourself you’ll hit the gin a little less? Schedule a reminder on your phone to pop up at 10 o’clock that reminds you to do your “replacement good habit” instead. This way you’re still being held accountable even when your will power has dwindled down to zero. No more excuses!

5. Shoot Down Any Devil Advocate’s Thoughts

You know how when you really want to indulge in a bad habit, you conjure up a “one more time” type of dialogue. As in “this will be the last time I do this,” or “I’ll be better starting tomorrow.” No. Don’t let yourself do that.

Which is something you already know, but chances are don’t know how to stop. Lifestyle writer Catherine Pearson from Huffington Post suggested looking at those statements like an outsider, and reacting to them accordingly. “When you deliberately tune into those ‘permission-giving’ thoughts and look at them critically much like an outside observer might, you’re better able to call yourself out and hold yourself accountable when they strike again.” She suggested saying the statements out loud, and then looking at them as if you’re friend just said the statement about their own bad habit. Chances are you’d block them from continuing and offer up the replacement good habit, instead.

6. Draft A Buddy To Help You Stay On Track

If you’re having a rough time batting away your bad habit, try enlisting a friend to help you out. For example, every time you want to body shame yourself, text your friend about how you’re having these negative thoughts and they’ll remind you what you’re supposed to do instead. Like name three things you love about your body.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, psychologist and counselor, explained, “Being accountable to others is a powerful incentive to keep on keeping on. By both giving and receiving support, you keep the goal in focus.” It’s always easier to achieve your goals with a little bit of help.

7. Reward Yourself

Life gets a little hard when all you do is deny yourself things. So to counteract that, make sure to reward yourself every time you reach a small milestone with your habit-breaking. Why is this important? According to career development site Mind Tools, “The reason rewards are important is because when you stop the old behavior you won’t get that all-important dopamine surge; however, the reward will give it instead. Over time, your brain will start to associate this new, positive behavior with the dopamine surge coming from the reward.” So every week you make it keeping to your new habit, offer yourself a little treat. It’ll keep you going.

Whether you want to cut back on your procrastination, stop yourself from stress shopping, or cut back on a bad habit like smoking, try these tips out and you might find the whole process a lot easier!

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.

So why do we still do them? And most importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

I’ve previously written about the science of how habits start, so now let’s focus on the practice of making changes in the real world. How can you delete your bad behaviors and stick to good ones instead?

I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but keep reading and I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to break a bad habit.

You don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.

Most of your bad habits are caused by two things. stress and boredom.

Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the Internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom.

But that doesn’t mean that bad habits are useless.

Bad habits address certain needs in your life and for that reason, you need to replace them with habits that satisfy that same need.

For example, if you smoke when you get stressed, then it’s a bad plan to “just stop smoking” when that happens. Instead, you should come up with a different way to deal with stress and insert that new behavior instead of having a cigarette.

If you waste time by turning on the TV whenever you feel bored, then you need to develop a new habit to address your boredom.

If you expect yourself to simply cut out bad habits without replacing them, then you’ll have certain needs that will be unmet and it’s going to be hard to stick to a routine of “just don’t do it” for very long.

How to break a bad habit

Here are some additional ideas for breaking your bad habits and thinking about the process in a new way.

Choose a substitute for your bad habit. You need to have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit.

What are you going to do when you get the urge to smoke? (Example: breathing exercises instead.)

What are you going to do when Facebook is calling to you to procrastinate? (Example: Write one sentence for work.) Whatever it is and whatever you’re dealing with, you need to have a plan for what you will do instead of your bad habit.

Cut out as many triggers as possible. If you smoke when you drink, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat cookies when they are in the house, then throw them all away. If the first thing you do when you sit on the couch is pick up the TV remote, then hide the remote in a closet in a different room. Make it easier on yourself to break bad habits by avoiding the things that cause them.

Right now, your environment makes your bad habit easier and good habits harder. Change your environment and you can change the outcome.

Join forces with somebody. How often do you try to diet in private? Or maybe you “quit smoking” but you kept it to yourself? (That way no one will see you fail, right?)

Instead, pair up with someone and quit together. The two of you can hold each other accountable and celebrate your victories together. Knowing that someone else expects you to be better is a powerful motivator.

Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live. You don’t need to ditch your old friends, but don’t underestimate the power of finding some new ones. If you don’t know where to start, then join a Superhuman Meetup.

Visualize yourself succeeding. See yourself throwing away the cigarettes or buying healthy food or waking up early. Whatever the bad habit is that you are looking to break, visualize yourself crushing it, smiling, and enjoying your success. See yourself building a new identity.

You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you. So often we think that to break our bad habits, we need to become an entirely new person. The truth is that you already have it in you to be someone without your bad habits. In fact, it’s very unlikely that you had these bad habits all of your life. You don’t need to quit smoking, you just need to return to being a non-smoker. You don’t need to transform into a healthy person, you just need to return to being healthy. Even if it was years ago, you have already lived without this bad habit, which means you can most definitely do it again.

Use the word “but” to overcome negative self-talk. 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.

Whenever that happens, finish the sentence with “but”.

  • “I’m fat and out of shape, but I could be in shape a few months from now.”

“I’m stupid and nobody respects me, but I’m working to develop a valuable skill.”

Plan for failure. We all slip up every now and then.

As Steve Kamb says, “When you screw up, skip a workout, eat bad foods, or sleep in, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club.”

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. For a handful of strategies that can help you bounce back when you make a mistake, read this article.

Where to go from here

Breaking bad habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance. Most people who end up breaking their bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work. You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all.

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares strategies that make it easier to live a healthy life – both mentally and physically. For fresh ideas on how to boost your productivity, improve your health, and master your habits, join his free newsletter.

For more by James Clear, click here.

For more on success and motivation, click here.

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How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

Start Breaking a Bad Habit and Forming a New One

Shaping our everyday activities and even how we feel about ourselves, habits can either make you or break you. New Year’s resolutions are similar to trying to break a habit. We have a goal in mind, we prepare tools to help us succeed, and we make an effort to keep up the goal. So why do most New Year’s resolutions and attempts at breaking a bad habit fail?

Willpower and strength to stay away from temptations decreases. As a result, motivation generally decreases, leaving us caving into our past and forgetting all about our goals.

Dreams of reaching the finish line are also given up so easily. Say you want to start eating healthier. You start to eat fruits and vegetable every day for two days. On the third day, someone brings donuts into the office. Can you have one? You have been doing so good so one donut won’t hurt, right? All it takes is being okay with that one donut for you to be okay with ice-cream later on and then pizza for a midnight snack. Considering you are eating vegetables, you are okay with having the donut because you are still eating healthy at other times.

Achieving goals and forming new habits don’t work this way.

Caving in is all too easy when you are comfortable where you are. You give up trying to reach a goal because it seems unreachable or you are satisfied with something in-between where you are at the moment and the goal you are trying to reach.

Chances are, you are not quitting because you set a goal too high; you feel like quitting because you have not set appropriate steps to achieving that goal. Breaking a bad habit might take longer than forming a new one, but in the process of forming a new positive habit, you are slowly breaking the bad one along the way. Set a goal, and follow these steps to break bad habits and form new positive ones for the long term.

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

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1. Take Small Steps to Setting Patterns

Patterns don’t take hold instantly. It takes time for a pattern to become a pattern or for an action to become a habit. Pretend you drink everyday (at least once), and you have a goal of completely becoming sober from drinking alcohol. Instead of quitting cold turkey and suddenly stop drinking, meanwhile putting yourself at risk for withdrawal, it is easier and more efficient to limit yourself to smaller drinking patterns. Setting small goals such as only allowing yourself one drink today with dinner rather than a drink with every meal makes it easier to follow and easier to track how well you are progressing in your goals, therefore motivating you to continue your journey.

2. Stay Away from Temptations that Help Feed Your Addiction or Bad Habits

Staying away from temptations is a lot easier than you think. You contribute to your addiction or bad habits when you put yourself in familiar places where your triggers are present. The world is full of fun activities; you don’t have to be limited to a bar or a pill to have a good time. If your friends try forcing you to come out and drink or do drugs with them while you are attempting to get sober, then be honest and upfront with them. Good friends will help you achieve your goal, not set you backwards.

How bad do you want to be successful at breaking a bad habit and forming a positive one? Use that strength to remove temptations from your life. Certain people also trigger giving into our habits. Avoiding these people and their influence is the best solution to getting away from any triggers they may cause. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Replace Your Old Habits with New Similar Ones

Finding something similar to your bad habit can help you easily replace it. If you only have the choice to give into your habit or stay at an equilibrium, your habit will likely influence your choosing. If you have two choices, one new choice and one old choice, you have a better chance at picking the new choice that will help you form a positive habit since it puts you at an elevated level compared to where you were before.

For example, when someone who uses drugs feel stressed, they are more inclined to use the drugs than to not use the drugs and deal with stress on their own. Using the drugs puts them at a higher point than before but not using keeps them at the same stressful level. Instead, if you have the option to use drugs or go for a walk to get rid of stress you might pick going for a walk since the walk will likely de-stress your mind and body and put you at a better state than before.

If you drink alcohol when going out with friends and want to get sober, try a new non-alcoholic drink. You will still enjoy having something in your hand and tasting a good drink (keeping the same patterns as before), but this time it won’t be giving into your bad habit. As you start to replace your bad choices with better choices, you will likely reach for the better choice first, without even contemplating it!

4. Love Yourself

Loving yourself is a big key in removing the chains your addiction or bad habits have locked you into. Fighting the need to use or give into your habits can be very exhausting, often resulting in caving in. This is where a strong mind and strong love for yourself comes into play. When you are in that moment, ask yourself, “Will this really better me? I love myself too much to give into this habit that will only make me feel temporary pleasure, while putting me at a worse state for the future.” Love yourself enough to stop yourself from doing damage to your present and future. You are responsible for your actions and the consequences that comes along with them. Stop and think about how your decisions will truly affect you, and only then should you make the decision.

We’ve all made mistakes in the past. Today is the day to learn from them. Take hold of what you know has resulted from those bad decisions. Do you want to relive that pain over and over again? Keep your goal of what new habit you want to form or what habit you want to break in mind, and stick to achieving it one step at a time.

Once you learn to live without your habit, you won’t feel the need for it in your life anymore. Take control of your body and your mind. You are in charge; you have finally unlocked the chains. You are free.

You have to start somewhere. Get up, and start today.

How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

Old habits can be hard to break, and new habits hard to make, but with these six basic steps you can develop new, healthy behaviors that stick.

Can You Retrain Your Brain?

Mike wrote a list, and checked it twice. This time he was going to kill it:

  • Make a healthy snack
  • Go to the gym
  • Don’t waste time on cell phone
  • Read a classic novel
  • Housetrain Rex

Twenty-four hours later, Mike munched celery sticks while reading The Great Gatsby, his legs sore, but in a good way, after the hour on the treadmill while Rex waited patiently by the back door to go out …

Do you believe this? I didn’t think so!

Here’s what Mike was really doing. Mike was on the couch, one hand in a bag of chips, the other on his cell phone. The unopened gym bag and copy of Of Mice and Men lay on the floor, which Rex had soiled once again.

That’s more plausible, right? We all know habits don’t change overnight — not for simple doggies and not for big-brained human beings. But there’s good news: research shows that just like Rex can learn that he should go potty outside instead of on Mike’s gym bag, you can rewire your brain to change your own habits. 1 But we humans need a subtler approach than a few treats and “good boys” to change our ways.

Here’s how Mike (and you) can better understand how habits form and how to replace bad ones with good.

6 Steps to Changing Habits

  1. Identify Cues.
    Something has to trigger a habit, and a cue can be anything. Maybe stress makes you crave chocolate, or the sound of your alarm triggers you to hit the snooze button. Identifying cues helps you understand what puts your habits into motion.
  2. Disrupt.
    Once you know the cues, you can throw bad habits off track. If the alarm cues you to bash the snooze button every morning, put the alarm clock on the other side of the room. Trekking across the cold floor will likely disrupt the snooze habit.

  • Replace.
    Research shows that replacing a bad behavior with a good one is more effective than stopping the bad behavior alone. 2 The new behavior “interferes” with the old habit and prevents your brain from going into autopilot. Deciding to eat fruit every time your mind thinks “cookie” substitutes a positive behavior for the negative habit.
  • Keep It Simple.
    It’s usually hard to change a habit because the behavior has become easy and automatic. The opposite is true, too: new behaviors can be hard because your brain’s basal ganglia, (the “autopilot” part), hasn’t taken over this behavior yet. 3 Simplifying new behaviors helps you integrate them into your autopilot routines.
  • Think Long-Term.
    Habits often form because they satisfy short-term impulses, the way chewing on your nails might immediately calm your nerves. But short-term desires often have long-term consequences, like nasty, splintered, chewed up fingers. Focusing long term while trying to change some habits will help you remember why you’re investing the effort.
  • Persist.
    Research has shown that what you’ve done before is a strong indicator of what you’ll do next. This means established habits are hard to break. But the good news is, if you keep at it, your new behaviors will turn into habits, too. 4 Persistence works — at first it might be painful to get up at 5am for that jog, but soon it will be second nature.
  • Let’s check back in with Mike. He gave it another go with all these tips in mind. This time, he tossed the chips and replaced them with veggies; when his brain craved salty, fried potatoes, it found carrots instead. He promised himself that when he had the urge to kill some time on his cell phone, he’d disrupt the urge by picking up To Kill a Mockingbird instead (and if you look at his list, he’s killed two birds with one stone).

    Finally, Mike kept his gym bag in the car so he couldn’t forget it again — the first step toward forming a new 15-minutes-on-the-treadmill-during-lunch habit. (And don’t worry about Rex — it turns out his potty problems weren’t a bad habit at all, but a protest to get attention from a neglectful owner who played on his phone too much. This problem resolved itself.)

    So, habits can be changed, and with a bit of time and some effort, healthy behaviors can become second nature. Now get on it, so you can be Healthy For Good!

    Before we get into the guide, I want to recommend the most comprehensive guide on how to change your habits and get 1% better every day: My new book Atomic Habits.

    Packed with evidence-based self-improvement strategies, Atomic Habits will teach you how to make the small changes that will transform your habits and deliver remarkable results.

    How to break a bad habit (and replace it with a good one)

    Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits—whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, and achieve success that lasts.

    Want to get Chapter 1 of Atomic Habits for free? Just enter your email address below.

    Let’s get to the habits guide…

    What Are Habits?

    Let’s define habits. Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.

    Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits. How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits.

    What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray. Everything I write about – from procrastination and productivity to strength and nutrition – starts with better habits. When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.

    This page includes recommended resources on forming better habits and breaking bad ones in any area of life, but if you’d like to explore information on specific types of habits, check out these articles:

    3 Ways to Form Better Habits

    1. How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide: Read this guide right now to learn 5 easy, powerful strategies for changing habits.
    2. The 3 R’s of Habit Change: How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick: Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern: Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior), routine (the behavior itself; the action you take), and reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior). This helpful framework can make it easier to stick to new habits so that you can improve your health, your work, and your life in general.
    3. Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year: Most of the time we set our goals in the wrong way. Read this article to learn how identity-based habits can help you achieve your goals more easily.

    3 Ways to Break Bad Habits

    1. How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One: Want to learn how to break a bad habit? Read this article to discover the science of breaking bad habits and practical suggestions for making it happen.
    2. How Vietnam War Veterans Broke Their Heroin Addictions: By simply removing yourself from an environment that triggers all of your old habits, you can make it easier to break bad habits and build new ones.
    3. How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using “Bright-Line” Rules: A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying. Most of us could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives.

    How to Make a Habit Stick

    • How to Stick to Your Goals When Life Gets Crazy: Having a bad day is just one of the tiny emergencies that prevents most people from sticking to their goals and habits. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
    • How to Stick With Good Habits Every Day by Using the “Paper Clip Strategy”: Why do some good habits stick while others fail? Read this article about a strategy you use to stick with good habits every day.

    How to Build Habits That Last and Design Life as You Want It

    Want to learn everything you need to build better habits and break bad ones? I recommend the Habits Academy.

    The Habits Academy is the world’s most comprehensive course on habits and the science of human behavior. More than 5,000 students have taken the course. Over 40 video lessons are available to Habits Academy students.

    Best Habits Books

    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
    • Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
    • Hooked by Nir Eyal
    • The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

    Want more great books on psychology and self-help? Browse my full list of the best psychology books and best self-help books.