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5 Science-Approved Ways to Break a Bad Habit

Replace a Bad Habit With a Good One

The more you suppress your thoughts, the more likely you are to think about that thought or even revert back to that bad habit. Instead of trying to stop doing something,  it’s easier to do something else.

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5 Science-Approved Ways to Break a Bad Habit

5 Science-Approved Ways to Break a Bad Habit

https://time.com/5373528/break-bad-habit-science/

time.com

5

Key Ideas

Set Better Goals

Be specific on how you’ll implement goals into your daily life. Examining how you’ve responded to the situation in the past and determining what you can do to avoid reverting to the old habit, might be all it takes to break the habit.

It’s easier to react based on something you’ve already planned out in the past versus trying to come up with a new plan on the fly. 

Have a Better Reason For Quitting

Even if you replace a “bad” habit with a better one, sometimes the original vice will have a stronger biological “reward” than its substitute. This is where the importance of having an intrinsic motivation comes into play.

If that is the case, find as many benefits to the change as you can and try to use them as extra motivation.

Replace a Bad Habit With a Good One

The more you suppress your thoughts, the more likely you are to think about that thought or even revert back to that bad habit. Instead of trying to stop doing something,  it’s easier to do something else.

Know Your Cues

Habits have three main parts: a cue, a routine and a reward. Cues are the context where you tend to engage in the behavior and knowing your triggers can help you avoid them.

Capitalizing on major life changes can also help break an unhealthy habit. Shifts in lifestyle can actually be the ideal opportunity for eliminating a vice as you don’t have those same cues.

Sink Your Stress Levels

Many habits involve the brain’s dopamine (or reward) system. The first time you engage in a new, “rewarding” behavior, you get a euphoric feeling from doing it as a result of a dopamine and that increases the likelihood of you repeating the behavior

Reducing your stress level makes you need less reward to offset it.

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What causes bad habits

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 ...

"Benefits" of bad habits

All of the habits that you have right now — good or bad — are in your life because they provide a benefit to you, even if they are bad for you in other ways.

And because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it's very difficult to simply eliminate them. Instead, you need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.

How to break a bad habit
  • Choose a substitute for your bad habit
  • Cut out as many triggers as possible. 
  • Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live.
  • Visualize yourself succeeding and avoid negative self-talk.
  • Plan for failure and find things that can help you bounce back when you make a mistake.
Willpower is Limited

Though companies like Nike try to ignite our willpower with their slogans, ultimately willpower cannot squash our subconscious and unconscious behavior.

Repetition of action and thought can m...

Knowledge is not Enough
Just merely knowing something is good or bad for you is not going to give you any benefit, unless the implementation is done. Conscious knowledge cannot change your behavior, one has to make necessary changes to successfully act in self-control.

If you know that you will eat junk food because your refrigerator is filled with it, remove all the junk food.

Friction

Just as removing friction aids in doing the activity more often, adding friction can aid to remove the bad habit, by making it difficult or cumbersome to do so.

Example: Cigarette smoking declined due to adding taxes, banning in public places and removing from vending machines.

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“The secret to permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit.”

Bryant McGill
The Role Of Perseverance On Change

Bad habits don’t go away overnight. But, you can use strategies to give you that extra boost of self-confidence and self-control required to change.

Understand that sometimes you will fail and sometimes you’ll succeed. But no matter how long it takes to fail and get back up again, your patience and perseverance will soon pay off.

Creating An “If-Then” Plan

It gives you an automatic response to react to your cravings and makes it easier to replace a bad habit with a good one: 

  • Identify the scenario that usually triggers your bad habit.
  • Specify a different response to the trigger. Ideally, this should be a good habit that would replace and prevent you from falling into the temptation.
  • Combine steps 1 and 2 into an “if-then” format.

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Develop a Mantra

When temptation or self-doubt arises, you can repeat a mantra you have created, to recall yourself back in your self-disciplined state of mind.

Think of a quick word or phrase that you can...

Write Down Your Reasons

We give in to temptations due to our emotions winning over logic, as indulgence offers us temporary relief.

Create a List, with clear reasons for staying under control and all the ways you will be better if you don't give in to temptation. Keep the list at hand and read it out whenever you feel like indulging, until the craving passes.

Make Bad Habits Harder to Do

Sometimes, bad habits are just too convenient and we're used to them, so creating obstacles that make the bad habit a challenge to perform will take care of impulsive actions and indulgences.

If one wants to quit smoking, it does help if there are no cigarettes around, for example.

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New Year's resolutions

New Year Resolutions are a disaster for a majority of us.

They feel unpleasant due to the fact that we see them as an event. The time, process, dedication, and commitment we need to them done...

Event Vs Process

All events have a backstory, a history, some amount of risk and sacrifice.

  • If we focus on the event only, we will not be able to do anything with our lives.
  • If we follow the process, daily making ourselves better and stay committed, we end up getting the life we desire.
Losing weight

As we know, exercise in any form makes us better.

Instead of complicating the process and making it a big event, just smoothen the daily process. Make a habit of going out to exercise by getting up early, wearing the right clothes, packing the gym bag at night, so that you remove friction from the activity.

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The 21st-Century Syndrome
The 21st-Century Syndrome

This ‘21st-century Syndrome’ is due to two factors:

  1. An overabundance of dopamine-inducing options is taking its toll on our minds, making it difficult to relax.
Distractions Can Be Useful

The brain needs time and space to process information. The breaks we take during work, like talking to a colleague at the watercooler provides a ‘downtime’ and helps process information.

This takes the shape of distractions when we are at home. You could even be problem-solving while quietly doing the laundry at home, as your brain processes the events and information in the background.

Unshared Fears Lead Us Into Distraction

Our feelings, emotions and fears remain largely unshared at home, when we are trying to do many things at once, fighting countless battles single-handedly to balance everything.

Not having someone to talk to gets us into distractions, and when we force ourselves to not indulge, it makes us want to do it more.

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The Habit Loop
The Habit Loop

The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.

Together, these fo...

5 primary ways that a new habit can be triggered
  • Cue 1: Time - Most common way to trigger a new habit
  • Cue 2: Location - Most powerful driver of mindless habits and also the least recognized
  • Cue 3: Preceding Event - Many habits are a response to something else that happens in your life
  • Cue 4: Emotional State - emotional state is a common cue for bad habits
  • Cue 5: Other People - people you surround yourself with can play a role in your habits and behaviors.
Like Vs. Lust

There are 2 kinds of pleasure: “liking” and “wanting.” “Liking” is a state of happiness and satisfaction, such as the gratification we get after a good meal. But “wanting” comes from the p...

Not Having Something Makes Us Want It More

We naturally want what we can’t have and being denied it makes us want it more. Suddenly depriving yourself of something may empower the cravings, so occasionally indulgences might good.

But from a drug addiction standpoint, a slip-up or two could have catastrophic effects. Instead of focusing on the fact you can’t have something, learn to reframe ways of thinking and choose to fill that space with new people and outside interests.

The “What The Hell” Effect

This means that once we’ve mis-stepped, we use it as justification to go all out. One bad decision can snowball into bigger consequences, making us temporarily lose sight of our ultimate goal.

Be aware of your actions and way of thinking. And if you make a mistake, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes and move forward.

Tsundoku
Tsundoku

Many of us have a desire to read. We buy books, but then the demands of work and family catch up with us, and we never get round to reading the books. The Japanese calls it tsundoku

Finding the time for books

To give books the attention and time it deserves in your life, you need to make it a higher priority. It means you have to change your habits and routines to allow more reading.

Sometimes, your reading needs only a little encouragement to displace something that should be lower down on your list. For example, to forgo watching television and reading a book instead.

The reading habit: Succeeding long-term
  • First consider why you want to read more books. Reading should be enjoyable for you because you find them entertaining, calming, stimulating, and fascinating. Once the habit is set, you can also read other things you "should" read.
  • Change your surroundings to make it easier for you to grab a book. Reading apps can be prominent on your phone. Physical books should be in places that you most often frequent.
  • Create modest reading goals. Permit yourself to start with reading one page a day. Once the habit is established, you can increase it.
  • Once you have laid the foundation for your new reading habit, create an action association, such as reading on the train to work or with your mid-morning coffee or dinner.

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Chronically Late People
Chronically Late People

Being habitually and chronically late for work or any other appointment is a kind of insanity, according to Tim Urban, who classifies such people (comprising 15 to 20 percent of the population as p...

Cultivating Punctuality

Being late is a chronic habit and shifting towards punctuality can take weeks or even months, as the person has to break down a pattern (of being late) and build a new one.

One has to train their mind to the new normal of being on time by thinking and planning ahead, proactively.

Running Late: Breaking The Habit

The amount of energy it takes to rush into things and trying to reach frantically on time, and then to repent afterwards, can be harnessed and channelled into working towards being punctual.

Being accountable towards one’s tardiness, when the consequences like the loss of a job, or a major client, can spur a person into breaking the internal denial about their lateness being something tolerable by others.

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