How to get rid of bad habits and form new ones? Is it even possible to break a bad habit?
All of us have bad habits.
For some of you, it might be smoking, alcohol, gaming, social media, watching TV, eating fast food, and the list goes on and on.
Habits are at the core of everything you do.
All of those bad habits interrupt your life, health, mind, prevent you from accomplishing your goals, and they waste your time and energy.
Habits are hard to break.
I will show you how to get rid of bad habits and develop new healthy habits, and these techniques are backed by science.
If you want to achieve your goals, you have to change your habits and routines.
Your habits will determine how successful you’ll be.
“There is no change without a change of routine.”
– Joel Salatin
What causes bad habits?
Most of your bad habits are caused by stress, friends, boredom, and videos.
Stress – When we are stressed we try many quick fixes to get rid of our problems. Many times we pick up bad habits like smoking, drinking etc.
Friends – Sometimes you get bad habits from your friends who already have those habits
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
– Jim Rohn
Boredom – Just like stress, boredom may also lead you to bad habits. To deal with boredom, we start wasting time in front of a TV or browsing internet.
Videos – We watch influencers, and they influence us to do different things, sometimes not so good.
Being Purposeless – If you are spending a purposeless life, then your chance of acquiring bad habits increases to a large extent.
I will show you the exact step-by-step formula on how to get rid of your bad habits, but before that, it’s very important to admit that you have a problem.
How long does it actually take to form a new habit? (Backed by Science)
University College London did a study.
96 people were tested over a 12-week period. Each person picked one new habit for the next 12 weeks. Each day they reported how automatic the behavior felt.
On average, it takes 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic.
And how long it takes a new habit to form depends on the person, the behavior, and the circumstances.
It took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
You might have started something new but remember it takes time.
Don’t give up!
How do habits work?
Habits work in 3-steps: cue, routine, reward.
The cue is what triggers you to do the habit.
Sitting down at your kitchen table to have breakfast every morning at 7:30 AM.
The routine is the behavior you then automatically engage in.
For drinking coffee, might be to go over to your coffeemaker, turn it on, and press the button.
Then you’ll receive a reward for completing the routine.
The rich smell of your coffee, it’s taste.
Let’s dive in on how to get rid of bad habits.
How to get rid of bad habits and form new ones?
Change might not be fast, and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.
- Identify the routine
- Experiment with rewards
- Isolate the cue
- Have a plan
1. Identify the routine
To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of your loops. Once you have diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behavior, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines.
Just like we did before with a coffee example, identify every step – cue, routine, reward.
- Identify the routine. The routine is the most obvious aspect: It’s the behavior you want to change.
- What’s the cue for this routine? Is it hunger? Boredom?
- What’s the reward? Is it taste?
2. Experiment with rewards
Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors.
To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. This might take a few days, or a week, or longer.
The point is to test different hypotheses to determine which craving is driving your routine.
Are you craving the cookie itself, or a break from work? If it’s the cookie, is it because you’re hungry? (In which case the apple should work just as well.) Or is it because you want the burst of energy the cookie provides? (And so the coffee should suffice.) Or are you wandering up to the cafeteria as an excuse to socialize, and the cookie is just a convenient excuse? (If so, walking to someone’s desk and gossiping for a few minutes should satisfy the urge.)
By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving, which is essential in redesigning the habit.
3. Isolate the cue
The reason why it is so hard to identify the cues that trigger our habits is because there is too much information bombarding us as our behaviors unfold.
Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:
- Emotional state
- Other people
- Immediately preceding action
To identify cue, answer these questions every time you’re doing your bad habit:
- Where are you? (sitting at my desk)
- What time is it? (3:36 P.M.)
- What’s your emotional state? (bored)
- Who else is around? (no one)
- What action preceded the urge? (answered an email)
After a while, see the common pattern.
4. Have a plan
Once you’ve figured out your habit loop-you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself-you can begin to shift the behavior. You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving.
What you need is a plan.
Put another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.
Hopefully, now you understand how to get rid of bad habits and develop new healthy habits.
For more information about habits check out the book ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business‘ by
How to be more productive at work, at home, while studying, and in life?
Check out ‘How to Be More Productive at Work and School (5 Tips)‘