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Breaking Bad Habits

by fatweb

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We all have our own little habits, the good and the bad, and it’s these habits that make us who we are. But whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, many of us have one (or maybe a few), bad habits that would do us good to break.
We might perceive our habits to be small, insignificant compulsions, but when repeated continuously our actions do have a significant impact on who we are as people. And whether we like to admit it or not, our habits mould us into the people we are.
From drinking excessively or routinely staying up all night, resulting in poor performance at work the following day, to procrastination, overspending, swearing, or binge eating – whatever the vice – if it is having a harmful effect on your work and personal life, it is time to break free of the negative behaviour pattern.
Whether the habit is done consciously or subconsciously it can be hard to stop, but it is worth trying. Here are five tips to help break free.

How to break the cycle

1. Create a plan
Once you’ve acknowledged the problem and got yourself into the right state of mind to tackle the habit, a plan can be useful to disrupt the automatic response to it.
Plan your approach by answering the following questions: What day do I start? Will I go cold turkey? How will I hold myself accountable for my actions? Who else will be involved in the process? What rewards for success will I give myself? A clear plan with create the discipline needed to succeed.
2. Identify your trigger
Understanding what fuels your bad habit is the key to overcoming it. Identify the trigger, whether it is people or a place, which enables the habit and avoid it.
If the bad habit is, for example, regularly eating fast food with a particular group of friends, then it may be the friends which are triggering the dependency. It’s hard to say no to a burger when everyone around you is eating them. Spend less time with people who have bad habits and more time with people who have good habits.
3. Change your environment
If you repeat the same behaviour in the same place every time, then the environment can prompt the undesirable behaviour. For example, if you take a smoke break in your work’s car park, then eventually the car park itself can subtly trigger an emotional desire for a cigarette. Avoiding the environment that triggers your habit can help towards kicking the cycle.
4. Retrain your thoughts
Even if we know a habit is damaging us physically or emotionally we continue to do it. Why? Because despite the obvious drawbacks, it still provides us with some sort of satisfaction or psychological reward that entices us to repeat the behaviour again and again.
Retrain positive or pleasant inner thoughts and feelings about the habit to focus on the negative impact it is having. Reframing your mind to put emphasis on the negative aspects should, over time, diminish the psychological reward received from acting out the habit.
5. Be patient
Be patient with yourself and don’t beat yourself up too much if you slip up and fall back into the habit – it’s called a habit for a reason. Established habits can be hard to break as they are ingrained into your life.
It may take several attempts to make a change so be patient and persist.
By Laura Baker

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