Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.
So why do we still do them? And most importantly, is there anything you can do about it?
I’ve previously written about the science of how habits start, so now let’s focus on the practice of making changes in the real world. How can you delete your bad behaviors and stick to good ones instead?
I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but keep reading and I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to break a bad habit.
Before we talk about how to get started, I wanted to let you know I researched and compiled science-backed ways to stick to good habits and stop procrastinating. Want to check out my insights? Download my free PDF guide “Transform Your Habits” here.
What causes bad habits?
Most of your bad habits are caused by two things…
Stress and boredom.
Most of the time, bad habits are simply a way of dealing with stress and boredom. Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can teach yourself new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom, which you can then substitute in place of your bad habits.
Of course, sometimes the stress or boredom that is on the surface is actually caused by deeper issues. These issues can be tough to think about, but if you’re serious about making changes then you have to be honest with yourself.
Are there certain beliefs or reasons that are behind the bad habit? Is there something deeper — a fear, an event, or a limiting belief — that is causing you to hold on to something that is bad for you?
Recognizing the causes of your bad habits is crucial to overcoming them.
When we fail at habits repeatedly, we lose trust in ourselves, don’t believe in our ability to stick to something, feel guilty and sometimes disgusted with ourselves.
This is a bad state of affairs for our future habits.
When we start a new habit, if we don’t really believe in our ability to stick to it, we’re less likely to succeed. We’ll doubt ourselves when things get a little harder. When we feel like quitting, part of our minds will say, “Ah, I knew this would happen. This just confirms what I thought about you, you loser.” And then we quit, instead of sticking it out and beating the quitting feeling.
Well, that’s not good. What’s better, though?
If you trust yourself to stick to a habit, you feel confident in your ability to get through tough times. You know that even if you get the feeling of quitting, you can beat it. Or if you fail, you know you can start again, get back up and learn from the mistake and try harder.