It is one of the curses of being human. We know what is good for us and yet find ourselves unable to do it. So often, simple awareness of our bad habits is not enough to break them.
We need more than knowledge to change bad habits. We need structure and a plan.
There is a growing amount of research into the science of motivation that shows us how to build this structure. We have drawn from this research to assemble this guide to breaking your bad habits.
Read on to discover scientifically supported ways to stop doing the things you don’t want to do.
Learn Your Triggers
Every habit has a few cues associated with it. These triggers form the ritual that leads up to the negative habit. In the case of that pint of ice cream you want to avoid at night, the trigger might be sitting on the couch.
Learning your triggers is a matter of examining your behavior right around the time you engage in the behavior you want to stop. You may be able to do this in your mind, or you may have to remind yourself in the moment to pay attention to what you have been doing. Either way, learning what these cues are will help you rewire your brain to replace the behavior.
Replace Instead of Just Removing
Notice we said “replace” and not “remove” or “erase.” That is because if you only focus on the negative aspects of undoing bad behavior, you are not going to get very far. It is much easier to stop a bad habit when you have a positive one to replace it.
To use our late-night ice cream example again, placing a book on your coffee table and picking it up instead of opening your fridge is one way of replacing instead of removing the habit.
Find Your Strongest Motivation
There is powerful motivation and weak motivation. The most common weak motivators are often extrinsic, meaning they come from outside you. When your boss scolds you for taking too long a lunch break, avoiding that scolding is extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is often stronger because it comes from inside yourself. If you want to get back from lunch to work on an exciting project, you are more likely to return to your desk on time.
Develop a Support System
Accountability is a huge part of helping good habits stick. This is one reason you may have noticed the proliferation of fitness mobile app marketing. This can become a form of extrinsic motivation, but if you are connecting with people you really care about and who care about you, those connections can remind you why you are changing your habits.
It is an understatement to call drug addiction a “habit,” despite the common usage of that phrase. But the concept of a support system is still applicable. Addicts who find a drug rehab center that gives them meaningful connections to others are better positioned to stay sober when they leave rehab.
Bad Habits Are Meant to Be Broken
You do not have to be a slave to your bad habits. With support and a plan, you can find freedom. We hope these suggestions have inspired you to do the research and get the help you need to become the person you want to be.
There are more suggestions where these came from. Check out our tips section for all sorts of advice.