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Mental Health

7 Steps to Drop a Bad Habit (and Never Go Back)

From nail-biting to overeating, a bad habit can be hard to break. But don’t let that keep you from trying.

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

From nail-biting to overeating, a bad habit can be hard to break. But don’t let that keep you from trying. Bad habits, no matter how benign they may seem, can harm your health, happiness, and productivity. They can also damage relationships that matter to you. Fortunately, ridding yourself of an unwanted behavior pattern doesn’t take a miracle. In fact, with a little patience and perseverance, it may be easier than you think. Follow these simple steps, and learn how to drop a bad habit–for life.

  1. Begin with Commitment

You may know you need to give up a bad habit, but if you don’t set your mind on doing it, you’ll fail. Make sure you’re dedicated wholeheartedly to changing your behavior. How? Jot down your commitment in a journal, use self-talk to reaffirm your intention, or make a promise to someone special. Change starts with a firm pledge from you to get the ball rolling. 

2. Recruit Support

Challenges in life are a lot easier when you don’t have to go it alone. When attempting to break a bad habit, find a supportive friend, spouse, or co-worker who is willing to help you with your quest. Ask him or her to check in with you daily about your progress, be there as a listener and cheerer-on when you make strides, and encourage you to press on if you have a setback.

3. Find Your Pace

Dropping a bad behavior cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone. If you have more success achieving goals in steps, take that approach. The most important thing is to make consistent headway in ridding yourself of the bad habit. Whether it’s with a giant leap, baby steps, or something in between, find a pace that works best for you–and keep making progress.

4. Choose Healthy Substitutes

Bad habits are often replaced with other bad habits. But here’s an idea: why not substitute your negative tendency with something just as satisfying–and not damaging? If you gossip about others, for example, try refocusing on the positive aspects of people and talk about what makes them interesting and unique. You can find a healthy, gratifying substitute for every unwanted behavior if you look.

5. Give Up the Guilt

Guilt can make abandoning a bad habit even harder. Guilt taunts you, clouds your thinking, and keeps you from making changes in your life. Don’t fall for the sting. There’s really no place for this self-inflicted emotion. Give yourself a break and let go of the guilt surrounding your bad habit. You’ll feel a load off your back and fresh motivation for turning over a new leaf.

6. Reward Your Progress

Any step you make toward dropping your bad habit is worth celebrating. So go ahead and reward yourself. It’ll help you acknowledge your progress and keep you inspired to continue working at reforming the behavior. Treat yourself to a healthy dinner out, indulge in a good movie, or make plans with friends. Just make sure the reward doesn’t lure you back into a negative pattern.

7. Look Forward

Once you’re on the road to change, don’t look back. Always keep your sights ahead and embrace the new you in the picture. Forward thinking will encourage you to head down the right path and help you stay the course through life. It will also inspire you to adopt new, positive habits as you grow and learn from past mistakes.

Bad habits don’t have to be lifelong ones. Make the effort to change your unwanted tendency. It’s easier than you think and will make all the difference to your health, happiness, and relationships.


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