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How To Break Bad Habits

We all have habits we would like to break, whether it's biting your fingernails, smoking, or eating late at night.

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Typically we are harder on others than ourselves when it comes to breaking bad habits. They could be annoyances like someone who starts cracking their knuckles right next to you.

But why are these habits so hard to break? Perhaps you think your day is made up of deliberate, conscious decisions, but in reality, a research study found that 45% of your everyday behaviours are actions that you repeat every day and tend to do in the same location. These are your habits.

How are bad habits formed?

Repetition - If you do something often enough your brain automatically stores that action causing you to develop a bad habit.

Positive reinforcement - The other way bad habits are formed is through positive reinforcement which sounds like a really good thing but it can be dangerous. For example, taking an energy drink every time you study.  It gives you a nice boost of energy and it helps you get through to the end but the reason why this kind of habit is hard to break is that an energy drink at 11 in the evening is an enjoyable feeling and enjoyable feelings usually result in your brain releasing dopamine. This is partly why people often crave things that aren't even enjoyable for them anymore.

We've got a four-step method for overcoming your bad habits.

Step 1

Write down the bad habit you're trying to quit. Start simple and choose just one.

Step 2

Learn to avoid your triggers. Take some time to think about the things that really make you crave doing your bad habit. If biting your nails is your bad habit, then your triggers might be that last-minute exam studying you still need to do. 

Next to each trigger, write a list of ways you can avoid them. For example, instead of biting your nails because of a test, prepare well in advance. 

Step 3

Substitute. Substitute your bad habits for not so bad habits. Basically you want to teach your brain by repetition to learn a new habit. So if you tend to bite your nails when you're stressed and alone in your living room, stock your refrigerator with carrots and celery so that you can reach for something good to chew on when you're stressed out. 

Step 4

Gather your friends and family to help you defeat your bad habit. You do not have to do this alone.

Enlist your friends to help you defeat this bad habit. Start by telling them that you're planning on eliminating this bad habit and you need their help. Just the simple act of letting them in on this battle is a step in the right direction. 
 

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