How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

An unhealthy lifestyle is one of the major contributor to almost every disease, illness and health issue that we are facing in this country and the whole world today as well. Late sleeping, snacking, breakfast eating, body weight, lack of exercising, alcohol consumption and smoking, these are the examples of way to define unhealthy lifestyle. However, the common way of defining unhealthy lifestyle are poor sleep hygiene, sexual promiscuity and substance abuse.

Nowadays, a large fraction of youngsters and teenagers are involved in unhealthy lifestyle practices. Poor sleep hygiene is one of the major problem that will affect teenagers of this 21st century. Teenagers nowadays used most of their time staying in front of the computer, they can have their computer games for all night long without sleeping, especially on the weekend and holidays, as they had themselves addicted to the game. Slowly, they will mess up their time and will start to sleep in the morning, which is the opposite way and some of them like me even skip their breakfast in the morning. ” 24-year-old South Korean man died after playing computer games for 86 hours”. I had read about this a few years back ago. This happened as glued to the computer and had no decent sleep and meals without any rest! This clearly shows that poor sleep hygiene will seriously affect our health and will shorten our life expectancy as well!

Another way to define unhealthy lifestyle is the sexual promiscuity. Sexual promiscuity are often can be seen in our society, we can see many teenagers nowadays are pregnant before their marriage and some even having HIV illness. This is because they are having poor lifestyle behavior, they are use to sleep with friends or even strangers and having multiple sexual partners. Therefore, one night stand is commonly happened in our society. On top of that, Sexual promiscuity will lead to many social problems. Unplanned and.

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How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

Unhealthy eating is largely caused by bad eating habits. Eating a bag of potato chips while watching TV once in awhile or binging on food during a party will probably not cause you any harm. However, when these actions become repetitive, they develop into habits. If you wish to break your unhealthy eating habits, you need to determine what they are first. Here are some common bad eating habits that you should learn to avoid.

1. Skipping Breakfast

Breakfast is believed to be the most important meal of the day, but many people still seem to make a habit out of skipping it. When you have to rush for work in the mornings or get your kids ready for school, it’s easy to neglect breakfast. Doing so not only drains you of energy, but also makes it more likely that you will snack throughout the day. Skipping breakfast also disrupts your metabolism, causing you to burn fewer calories. So, if you are trying to lose weight, skipping breakfast is not a good idea. A bowl of oatmeal, fruit or a healthy cereal can get your day off to a good start.

2. Food Binging

Binging or eating large amounts of food in one sitting is another unhealthy eating habit that you should avoid. Do you tend to skip meals then eat a lot in the next meal to compensate? Do you gorge yourself with junk food during the weekend after a week of eating restrictively? Do you often eat beyond the point that you’ve reached fullness? These are signs that you are a habitual binger. You might want to train yourself to eat several small meals in a day so you can avoid binging.

3. Emotional Eating

Emotional eating, or stress eating, is another common unhealthy habit that you should avoid. This occurs when you are driven by certain emotions to eat even though you’re not hungry. Perhaps you munch on candy bars when you’re stressed about a deadline at work, or perhaps you indulge in a tub of ice cream when you are feeling depressed. If you’re like most people who are emotional eaters, then you probably reach for unhealthy junk food in order to cope with your emotions. To solve this, try to find another channel for your stress and negative emotions. Take up a hobby or spend quality time with a friend.

4. Eating During Other Activities

If you eat while watching TV, while working, while reading or even while cooking then you are also developing an unhealthy eating behavior. When you eat while doing other activities, you become unable to measure how much you eat. As a result, you tend to overeat without knowing it. Try to have a specific schedule for eating. In the house, have a designated place exclusively for eating. For instance, you can make sure that you only eat in the kitchen and not in the other parts of the house.

5. Eating Late at Night

Having an occasional late night snack is fine, but if you can’t go to bed without having a plate of cookies or a slice of pie first, then you could be setting yourself up for weight gain. Eating too close to bedtime will also give you sleeping difficulty since your body will be busy digesting food.

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.

Deconstructing a few success stories from my life.

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

Difficulty level depends on the habit very much. I’ll give you a few examples.

1. Gaming Habit

I played computer games since I was exposed to the computer at the age of 12. I played my whole adult life till I was 33 years old. It was my escape mechanism. I loved strategy games. I could engage my whole brain into the gameplay and feel a pang of dopamine when I won, of course.

It was a bad habit, no doubt about that. I didn’t play a lot by modern standards, just 24–48 hours a month. But I stole those hours from my life — my sleep, my family, my job. I even played during work hours sometimes.

How hard it was to kick my gaming habit? Pretty easy. I decided to change my life. I already knew this habit doesn’t contribute any good to my life.

I had been tracking my time for two weeks, every single minute. I played only for 4.5 hours during those two weeks. Just the awareness that I would’ve needed to put my gaming into my time log made me back off.

After that experiment, I deleted games from my computer and never played again.

Success in Kicking Bad Habits

That was a success story. I can vivisect it for you, so you understand where the success came from.

The trigger for my gaming was a pang of escapism. Whenever I felt bored, tired, and most importantly — purposeless, with no meaning in my life — I played. Getting new levels and killing artificial opponents was a substitute for achieving something in my life.

When I got rid of the trigger, I got rid of the habit. When there was no pang of escapism, the habit couldn’t arise.

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

To make it even harder for me to indulge, I installed some environmental firewalls between me and the habit. I deleted my computer games, so even if I’ve felt the pang, I needed to reinstall them first.

However, the nature of the trigger (and my escapism pangs) is very short-lived. When you pull the trigger and there is no shot, you just toss the gun. When you have a pang of escapism and cannot immediately soothe your mind with your escape mechanism, you stop escaping.

So, I created some space between me and the habit, but the thing that helped me most was that I eliminated the trigger for this bad habit from my life. I had seen little sense in my life and that’s why I wanted to escape from it.
When I created my personal mission statement and started pursuing it for real, I had plenty of meaning and purpose in my life. I didn’t need to escape from it.

2. Tougher Cases — Installing Boundaries

We are habits sponges. We go through life and pick habits on autopilot, many of them bad. I’m sure you can think of one or two behaviors you repeat while knowing they aren’t beneficial for you.

I still have quite a bunch of bad habits I cannot quench for good. My sweet tooth is a prime example. I can eat sugar in any form and quantity. I can consume a whole cake in one sitting, no problem.

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

To add insult to the injury, my metabolism seems to magically convert sugar into fat tissue. I can eat meat or carbs and gain little to nothing. But it seems every ounce of sugar I eat turns into an ounce of fat.

I managed to reduce this habit significantly. I almost never eat sweets, I have specific limits for the sweet things I allow myself to eat (homemade cakes, honey, and a few other products).

But I didn’t kick the habit. Every time I’m around sweets there has to be conscious processing of my consumption decisions or I’ll end up indulging in sweets.

3. Reading Fiction — Avoiding the Trigger

My favorite pastime as a teenager was reading. I could read one to three books a day. I developed a habit of finishing books ASAP. It is a bad habit.
It may work for a teenager with no obligations. If you are an adult with a day job, kids, and family responsibilities, it’s a terrible habit.

I just cannot help myself when I get my hands on a good book. I read. I skip meals or sleep. I delay other responsibilities. I read, and read, and read.
I reduced this habit mostly by not having any books immediately available. I don’t shop for new fiction books. I don’t search for them. I stopped going to libraries.

It’s a great example of apparent success. If I don’t have a book nearby, I create the space between the impulse and the habit. Even if I want to read something, I cannot because I have nothing to read.

But I still cannot let a good book sit on a shelf. When I have one, I wolf it ASAP.

A nswering the main question: it’s pretty hard to kick a bad habit. It’s imprinted in your brain and we are so poorly equipped to fight off anything that comes from within.

It’s especially hard when you have no clue about habits and attack down the wrong path: you try to mobilize your willpower and kick the bastard.

You may succeed once, twice, or a dozen times. But this is a tireless opponent and it has a camp right in your brain. The habit will come back again and again. Dozen times, a hundred times. The clash of forces is not the right tactic.

The best tactic is to analyze what triggers the bad habit and put walls and layers between you and this trigger or between the trigger and the habit. Like I with a gaming habit, try to get rid of the trigger itself. It will freeze the habit in your brain. It will never have a chance to activate itself.

“In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose. Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.” ― Stephen R. Covey, “ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ”

Or like with my fiction reading habit, put some space between the trigger and the habit. Make it harder to indulge. It will allow you to step between the stimulus and reaction. Most of the time, if you turn on your thinking, you will choose the right thing.

The last option is to painstakingly rebuild your habit, turn it from a bad one into a good one, which is the master option. Why? Because your new “program” will become the default one. Your old trigger will release a new, good behavior.
This is the best way to kick a bad habit for good.

Charles Duhigg explains this in detail:
How Habits Work — Charles Duhigg

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

Today’s lifestyle is hectic we all know that. We don’t even get a chance to look over our habits either which made it difficult for us to maintain a healthy life. Before using an effective way to break bad habits. We need to understand our habit behavior first. As soon as you woke up in the morning, what did you do first? Ask question to yourself. What things make you do that? Your wish, carving or feeling of eating junk food are some examples. We thought you know that junk food is bad for your health yet you can’t stop yourself eating it. Isn’t it generally happened with all of us? Spending your endless time over TV or gadgets.

Need to understand how habit work

We started forming habits from the day we are born. We all have a suck on your thumbs as a baby, taking a nap every afternoon and many other things. Most of the time we don’t even realize that we had made a bad habit until it started to cause us trouble. These small habits take the turn to build a harmful effect on us later. Still, not all habits are bad. We build a lot of good habits too. As reading a book before sleeping or taking a hot shower to refresh yourself before going to bed. Consciously or unconsciously we had built various habit all these years. These habits are running our life breaking through them is hard but not impossible.

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

An effective way to break bad habits

  1. Make changes in your routine

Make changes in your environment is not easy. Many of us gave up after trying fifth or sixty times. Some doesn’t able to make it there.

The Golden Rule of Habit change consists of three parts: A Cue which turns into a Routine bring the satisfaction out as a Reward.

To have a better understanding on this subject you can also refer to the book ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. You just need to bring a bit of a change in your routine part. Use the same cue to provide the same rewards but change the routine.

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

  1. Take small step Start Small

Try to change your habit is one day is not possible. You will definitely end up giving up. As habit need their time to build. Similarly, to that transformation of habit take time too. Take small step just start will small.

  1. Track and measure your changes

Only bring change is not enough. You need to keep proper track of your activity too. This is an essential step when it comes anything regarding habits. You need to track and measure your progress regularly. You can simply use a sticky note to track your activities down or you can download apps Habit Tracker or Goal tracker & habit list & workout calendar whichever app suits you more.

How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

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!

    Deconstructing a few success stories from my life.

    How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

    How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

    Difficulty level depends on the habit very much. I’ll give you a few examples.

    1. Gaming Habit

    I played computer games since I was exposed to the computer at the age of 12. I played my whole adult life till I was 33 years old. It was my escape mechanism. I loved strategy games. I could engage my whole brain into the gameplay and feel a pang of dopamine when I won, of course.

    It was a bad habit, no doubt about that. I didn’t play a lot by modern standards, just 24–48 hours a month. But I stole those hours from my life — my sleep, my family, my job. I even played during work hours sometimes.

    How hard it was to kick my gaming habit? Pretty easy. I decided to change my life. I already knew this habit doesn’t contribute any good to my life.

    I had been tracking my time for two weeks, every single minute. I played only for 4.5 hours during those two weeks. Just the awareness that I would’ve needed to put my gaming into my time log made me back off.

    After that experiment, I deleted games from my computer and never played again.

    Success in Kicking Bad Habits

    That was a success story. I can vivisect it for you, so you understand where the success came from.

    The trigger for my gaming was a pang of escapism. Whenever I felt bored, tired, and most importantly — purposeless, with no meaning in my life — I played. Getting new levels and killing artificial opponents was a substitute for achieving something in my life.

    When I got rid of the trigger, I got rid of the habit. When there was no pang of escapism, the habit couldn’t arise.

    How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

    To make it even harder for me to indulge, I installed some environmental firewalls between me and the habit. I deleted my computer games, so even if I’ve felt the pang, I needed to reinstall them first.

    However, the nature of the trigger (and my escapism pangs) is very short-lived. When you pull the trigger and there is no shot, you just toss the gun. When you have a pang of escapism and cannot immediately soothe your mind with your escape mechanism, you stop escaping.

    So, I created some space between me and the habit, but the thing that helped me most was that I eliminated the trigger for this bad habit from my life. I had seen little sense in my life and that’s why I wanted to escape from it.
    When I created my personal mission statement and started pursuing it for real, I had plenty of meaning and purpose in my life. I didn’t need to escape from it.

    2. Tougher Cases — Installing Boundaries

    We are habits sponges. We go through life and pick habits on autopilot, many of them bad. I’m sure you can think of one or two behaviors you repeat while knowing they aren’t beneficial for you.

    I still have quite a bunch of bad habits I cannot quench for good. My sweet tooth is a prime example. I can eat sugar in any form and quantity. I can consume a whole cake in one sitting, no problem.

    How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

    To add insult to the injury, my metabolism seems to magically convert sugar into fat tissue. I can eat meat or carbs and gain little to nothing. But it seems every ounce of sugar I eat turns into an ounce of fat.

    I managed to reduce this habit significantly. I almost never eat sweets, I have specific limits for the sweet things I allow myself to eat (homemade cakes, honey, and a few other products).

    But I didn’t kick the habit. Every time I’m around sweets there has to be conscious processing of my consumption decisions or I’ll end up indulging in sweets.

    3. Reading Fiction — Avoiding the Trigger

    My favorite pastime as a teenager was reading. I could read one to three books a day. I developed a habit of finishing books ASAP. It is a bad habit.
    It may work for a teenager with no obligations. If you are an adult with a day job, kids, and family responsibilities, it’s a terrible habit.

    I just cannot help myself when I get my hands on a good book. I read. I skip meals or sleep. I delay other responsibilities. I read, and read, and read.
    I reduced this habit mostly by not having any books immediately available. I don’t shop for new fiction books. I don’t search for them. I stopped going to libraries.

    It’s a great example of apparent success. If I don’t have a book nearby, I create the space between the impulse and the habit. Even if I want to read something, I cannot because I have nothing to read.

    But I still cannot let a good book sit on a shelf. When I have one, I wolf it ASAP.

    A nswering the main question: it’s pretty hard to kick a bad habit. It’s imprinted in your brain and we are so poorly equipped to fight off anything that comes from within.

    It’s especially hard when you have no clue about habits and attack down the wrong path: you try to mobilize your willpower and kick the bastard.

    You may succeed once, twice, or a dozen times. But this is a tireless opponent and it has a camp right in your brain. The habit will come back again and again. Dozen times, a hundred times. The clash of forces is not the right tactic.

    The best tactic is to analyze what triggers the bad habit and put walls and layers between you and this trigger or between the trigger and the habit. Like I with a gaming habit, try to get rid of the trigger itself. It will freeze the habit in your brain. It will never have a chance to activate itself.

    “In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose. Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.” ― Stephen R. Covey, “ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ”

    Or like with my fiction reading habit, put some space between the trigger and the habit. Make it harder to indulge. It will allow you to step between the stimulus and reaction. Most of the time, if you turn on your thinking, you will choose the right thing.

    The last option is to painstakingly rebuild your habit, turn it from a bad one into a good one, which is the master option. Why? Because your new “program” will become the default one. Your old trigger will release a new, good behavior.
    This is the best way to kick a bad habit for good.

    Charles Duhigg explains this in detail:
    How Habits Work — Charles Duhigg

    We all have them — bad habits that we wish we didn’t have but feel pessimistic about changing. Maybe you know you really have to spend less time on Facebook or playing online games. Or perhaps you’ve tried a dozen times to quit smoking. Or maybe even thinking about getting more exercise makes you feel too tired to start. Whatever habit you’re trying to break, somehow you haven’t found the key to success.

    Search no more. Bad habits can be broken. Really. Here are 7 tips from the researchers who research such things:

    1. Cut yourself some slack. Habits are hard to change because, well, they’re habits. There’s a reason why they are hard to break. We actually need most of the habits we have. We go through most of our days engaging in good habits, routines and activities. If we didn’t, everything we did every day would be something we’d have to think about. Instead, we’re wired to learn and put in place activities that sustain us without giving it a moment’s thought.

    From the time you stumble into the bathroom in the morning to wash your face to your drive to work where you have a “habit” of following traffic rules, to your routines as you go through your workday to kicking off your shoes when you get back to the house, you are on autopilot a fair amount of the time. That frees your mind and your energy for new situations and new problems that require new decisions, creativity and actions. Unfortunately, the brain really doesn’t discriminate between the bad habits and the good ones. Once a routine is sorted into the “automatic” category, it’s hard to get it back out.

    2. Identify the underlying cause. All habits have a function. The habit of brushing your teeth every morning prevents trips to the dentist. The habit of checking your email first thing at work helps you organize your day. Bad habits are no different. They too have a function.

    Mindless eating can be a way to comfort yourself when you’re feeling down. Cruising the Internet for hours might be a way you avoid interacting with your partner or kids. Smoking (in addition to being just plain addictive) may be a way to take time out to pause and think. Drinking too much may be the only way you know how to be social. If you want to break the habit, you have to come to grips with whatever function the bad habit is serving.

    3. Deal with the real problem. Sometimes dealing is relatively easy. If snacking on junk food all afternoon is a compensation for not eating lunch, it’s obvious that the function of eating whatever is in the vending machine is to satisfy hunger. Your “habit” is telling you that you really do need to stop and take the 15 minutes to have lunch. But if your time on video games is your way to stay out of fights with your partner, it may be painful to face how dysfunctional your relationship has in fact become.

    Even if it makes you feel guilty and bad about yourself for having a bad habit, you are not likely to stop it unless you come up with another way to deal with its function. Something positive has to be put in its place. Positive can mean pleasant — like eating that lunch instead of skipping it to forage in the vending machine later. Positive can also be painful but important — like dealing with your feelings instead of stuffing them down with food, or getting into therapy with your partner instead of numbing your problems away with video games or alcohol or weed.

    4. Write it down. There’s something about committing a promise to paper that makes that promise more real. Researchers have found that just writing out a goal and keeping it handy to look at every day (or as many times as day as you need to) can help you stay on track. So write down your promise to yourself and read it before every meal and at bedtime. That’s a prescription that has no side effects and is likely to help.

    5. Get yourself a buddy. There’s a reason that many recovery programs include group meetings and individual sponsors or therapists. 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. Working with an individual sponsor or counselor can help you deal with the basis of your bad habit and find positive, healthy ways to take care of yourself instead. Being accountable to a friend (in person or virtual) helps you just stay on track.

    6. Give yourself enough time. Conventional wisdom is that it takes 28 days to get free of a bad habit. Unfortunately, that notion is just plain wrong. Bad habits are hard to break because they are Habits (with a capital H). Remember: your brain has put your bad habit in the “automatic” category. Once there, it’s difficult to shake it free.

    Yes, some people can get a good jumpstart in 28 days. But current research shows that most of us need about three months to substitute a new behavior for a bad habit. Some people need longer. Some people need to find a gentle but powerful way to stick with the project for the rest of their lives. It depends on the habit, your personality, your level of stress, and the supports you have in place.

    7. Allow for slips. You won’t be perfect. Almost everyone slips up. It’s only human. But it’s not a reason to give up. A slip provides you with information. It tells you what kinds of stressors push you off your good intentions. It tells you what you might need to change in order to stay on track. Think hard about why you slipped and get back on board. Tomorrow is another day.

    We all know a coworker who is consistently late for meetings, a colleague who takes days to respond to emails or the team member who has a negative response for everything. Bad work habits aren’t just common; they’re harmful to every nonprofit or business. But breaking bad habits at work is possible, and it will lead to increased efficiency and effectiveness.

    One of the reasons breaking bad habits is so hard is because habits often happen subconsciously. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40% of our behaviors on any given day. Only when we make a conscious decision to do something differently — and commit to doing it differently — will things change. The best way to stop bad habits is to consciously work to develop new ones.

    How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

    Here are four tips for breaking bad habits in the workplace.

    4 Ways to Break Bad Work Habits

    1. Use paper clips to take control of your daily goals.
    Yes, you heard that correctly. Here’s how it works: Need to reach out to 20 donors every day? Start by placing 20 paper clips on your desk. Toss one into a drawer each time you send a donor email, make a call or mail a hand-written note continuing to cultivate the relationship. Want to read 10 articles every day to stay informed on the latest news and data on philanthropy and changing donor expectations? Start with 10 paper clips on your desk. Drop one into a cup each time you finish an article. This tactic works for any daily goal you need to accomplish with any number of paperclips.

    Why does it work? You’re two to three times more likely to follow through with a habit if you make a specific plan for when, where and how you’re going to implement it. Using paperclips as visual cues, you can set daily goals and work to achieve them, breaking bad habits at work, such as disorganization or lack of focus.

    2. Stop procrastinating.
    What are the daily tasks you often avoid until the last minute? Perhaps it’s replying to emails, working on your budget, writing a blog post or doing employee reviews. Whatever you’re most likely to procrastinate doing is what you should get done first. To make it happen, follow these steps:

    • Identify a block of time to accomplish the tasks.
    • Schedule the tasks on your calendar, treating them just as you would an appointment with your top donors or funders.
    • Reward yourself when the task is complete.

    3. Master your daily calendar.
    Sometimes breaking bad habits at works starts with understanding what they are in the first place. Track how you spend your time at work for one week. Identify items that eat up your time by “popping up” throughout the day, and develop and commit to a system to effectively prioritize your workload.

    • If you realize that keeping up with notifications, social media and/or responding to “quick” emails eats up two hours each day, batch these tasks together and block off time, so you’re not checking them all day long. Perhaps use the first 10 minutes at the top of each hour or several specific times during the day to attend to these activities.
    • Identify three to four hours a week to block off on your calendar as personal Focused Work Time — for instance, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Let others know that you prefer not to be interrupted during these times, shut off notifications and send calls to voicemail.
    • Instead of creating a “to-do list,” create a “to-do schedule.” When adding something to your workload, don’t just add it to your list, find a time to schedule it into your day.

    4. Support your success.
    Breaking bad habits in the workplace and establishing better ones takes time and commitment. Here are some final tips to help ensure you create lasting behavior change.

    1. Commit to 30 days. Experts tell us it takes a minimum of three weeks to establish a new habit. Once you get over the initial hump, it will be a little easier to sustain.
    2. Set reminders. Don’t depend on your yet-to-be trained memory. After the first few days, you are more likely to fall back into what’s comfortable. Set calendar reminders, your phone alarm or other prompts to help you remember to follow through with your new habit.
    3. Find an accountability partner . Ask someone you trust and will listen to, to help keep you on track. Set up times to check in with him or her, so you’re sure to be successful.

    Automating behaviors in the form of habits is one of the best ways for your brain to conserve energy. You don’t have to expend effort when prompted to do things by your subconscious. Creating healthy, positive habits and learning to break bad habits at work will free up your brain to handle more complex, creative and innovative tasks.

    Better Habits Start Here

    If you want to improve your leadership skills and habits to strengthen your nonprofit organization and community, register for an upcoming nonprofit training at the Nonprofit Leadership Center. From leadership, volunteer management and grant writing to finance and organizational culture, we’ve got the personal and professional development support to help you succeed and accelerate your mission. Learn more and register HERE.

    How to break bad habits (the only effective way)

    Margarita Sarmiento has more than 25 years of management, training and facilitation experience in professional development, team building, leadership, organizational planning, board development, cross-cultural communication and diversity. She has worked in corporate management and training with Progressive Companies, Busch Entertainment Corporation and the National Conference for Community & Justice — Tampa Bay. She’s also an active trainer and facilitator for NLC.