Bad habits. We’ve all got them. From the small and (almost) insignificant, to the I-need-to-stop-now awful, everyone has a bad habit or two. I don’t believe there is a single cure-all for them – a swear jar won’t exactly stop you from grabbing a bag of chips whenever you’re bored – but in the end, all habits are about mindset. Both the good and bad have to do with how we train our brains. Change your mind, change your life. Up for the challenge? Here’s what to do.
Before you make a plan to break a bad habit, you must recognize you even have one. Some habits are so engrained in us that we don’t even notice. How many people automatically go straight to Facebook when they open the internet? And what about refreshing the page after posting on social media to see how many likes you get? These are just two examples of habits than don’t always, but can, become negative. Once you recognize you’ve got a habit to quit, you can start to think about WHY that habit’s there.
For some, it’s just muscle memory. But we also may be used to constantly checking our social media for other reasons – like wanting to feel connected or see what people think of us. Like any habit from biting nails to checking Instagram 50 times a day, there is often an underlying reason for such behavior. Analyzing it will bring it to your consciousness. From this day forward, you’ll catch yourself in the act – and can stop it before it goes too far.
Of course, breaking a bad habit isn’t as simple as recognition. You need to be conscious of your habit – and that you’re trying to break free from it – every single day in order to change your mindset. One way is to log your actions in a journal. For example, every time you find yourself biting your nails (or wanting to), log an entry in your journal. You can even write your thoughts if it helps you fight the urge. Or, if it’s a positive action that you want to get in the habit of doing (but have the bad habit of forgetting!) you can give yourself visual reminders. Something like a post it on the mirror in the bathroom reminding you to floss is a good start, and you can even add check marks every time you do it.
But is all this enough to break the cycle? If it’s really bad, probably not! Be patient. It will take time to do each of these things. Say you no longer want Facebook to be the first site you go to when you open up the internet. You have recognized it’s a habit and have logged your actions in a journal, but that doesn’t stop you from automatically opening your laptop. Well, you could redirect your attention to something else – hopefully forming a new habit. This method of replacing bad habits with new, positive ones addresses the root of your issue, such as your need to feel connected. You can then attempt to deal with your need to feel connected in a positive way. Every time you start to type in “facebo—“ you can instead go to a positive news site and learn about world issues. Or, you can close your laptop and read the newspaper instead. Not only will this form a new habit, but it will make you realize that you don’t need to do this every five minutes – a couple times a day will make you feel more connected than ever!
These are just examples, but hopefully they’ll help you break a bad habit this month, and maybe form a good one too!