(Note: I am not a professional. This take isn't meant to replace professional help. I'm writing this purely from my own experience with bad habits. If you are dealing with addiction and other harmful/dangerous habits, please seek professional help.)
Bad habits. From procrastination, to bored eating, to biting nails, to smoking, we probably all have at least one habit that isn't the best for us, and one we'd like to break. Today in this take, I want to talk about just that, breaking bad habits. I have a fair share of them myself, if I'm being honest here, most of my life has been consumed by various bad habits. While I'm not happy that's the case, admittance is the first step to fixing a problem, right?
Our brains go on autopilot for habits. For me, the first thing I do when I wake up is go and brush my teeth and wash my face. This has been a habit of mine for years, and my brain is seemingly entirely blank during it. I don't come off of 'autopilot' mode until I'm walking out of the bathroom, finished with my morning tasks. Our brains often seek ways to save energy, therefore it chunks certain tasks into an automatic routine. And despite my morning tasks taking multiple actions to complete, I'm able to do it without a second thought because it's a habit.
When not-so-healthy things become a habit though, it can be hard to break because of how automatic our brains can be sometimes, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. It just means you need to be mindful and active in stopping the said habit.
Habits have a 3-part sequence.
Prompt - This is what begins the urge to do the habit. Let's use nail-biting as an example, and let's say the prompt to begin it is boredom.
Procedure - The reaction to the trigger. In this case, the procedure is to begin biting your nails.
Benefit - What you gain from doing the habit. In this case, the benefit is a decrease in boredom because your mind is now occupied, consciously or subconsciously, through biting your nails.
The more you repeat this sequence, the more ingrained in your brain it'll become, which makes it harder to break.
Now that we know a bit behind why these habits begin, we can talk about the main point, which is how to break them.
1: Be Aware Of What Prompts The Habit
I'm going to continue using nail-biting as an example, but this goes for other habits too. I recently picked up this habit and I didn't offhand know why, as it was something I never did before and never had an urge to do before. I caught myself doing it subconsciously one night, and it was a night I was feeling pretty anxious. That was my prompt, anxiousness.
Once I had that figured out, I started trying to be more aware and found I mostly did it at night when I was alone in my room. So all in all, it was at night, I was alone, so nobody around me was prompting the behavior, and I was anxious. I'm always more anxious at night so it made sense. The procedure was to start biting my nails, and the benefit was something occupying my mind subconsciously and relieving a bit of the anxiety.
The moral of this is, you have to identify what is prompting the habit in order to stop it. The next time you catch yourself doing said habit, make a note of what emotion you were feeling, where you were, and what time of day it was.
2: Replacing The Bad Habit Once It's Identified
Okay, so now we have identified what is causing the bad habit. The point isn't necessarily to break it immediately, but rather replace it with a good and healthy habit. I knew I needed something to occupy my mind and hands, and something that'd relieve the anxiety at night at around 9-12 PM at night. You know what habit I picked up instead? Writing from 9-12 at night. Writing relieves my anxiety, keeps my mind focused, and my hands busy tapping away at my keyboard. That is exactly why it's almost eleven at night when I'm writing this.
So with your habit, let's use something else as an example, bored eating. Something I've struggled with and read plenty of stories from others. Let's say you bored eat in the afternoon every day, and let's use stress as the prompt, the procedure is to eat a bar of chocolate, and the benefit is short-term stress-relief. Instead of going to your pantry when you're not hungry, think of some other things that'd give you that sudden stress-relief you need. Stress relief methods can include a quick workout, mediation session, writing, drawing/doodling, and breathing techniques. If none of those are interesting, there are others you could find via a quick Google search.
Try using one of those as your procedure instead. You need a plan on how exactly you'll deal with that stress in the afternoon if you want to be successful in breaking your bad habit.
3: Team Up With Somebody
If you find you have a lot of trouble stopping bad habits by yourself, teaming up with a friend or family member might be for you. Tell them you're trying to stop a habit, maybe they're trying to as well, and hold each other accountable. Like if you're both trying to stop procrastinating, the next time you see them putting off finishing an assignment, remind them of what they're doing, motivate them, and hold them accountable, and vice versa. Celebrate your successes together and be each other's motivators.
4: Know It Likely Won't Happen Overnight
I've talked about baby steps before, and they apply here too. If you've had this happen for a while, it's not gonna go away overnight. It's going to be something you have to work at for a bit. If your bad habit is watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians on the TV for 5 hours every day, your body won't accept stopping cold turkey. Instead, take it down to 4 and a half hours, then in a couple of more days, down to 4 hours, and so on until you're not participating in the habit anymore, or until your watch time is in a reasonable limit. And in that extra time you have from not watching TV, fill it with good things, exercising, practicing a hobby, hanging out with friends, reading, cleaning, etc.
This goes for bored eating too, instead of entirely relying on the chocolate bar, allow yourself half of it and then follow it up with some stress-relieving method as discussed previously. Slowly decrease that chocolate bar amount and increase the healthy stress reliever.
(I'm not saying you can't ever eat chocolate again or watch TV again. I'm just saying don't bored eat a bunch of it and don't bored watch for hours beyond hours.)
5: Accept Failure Will Occur
I've failed on stopping harmful habits plenty of times. It bummed me out of course, and my mind immediately went into negative thinking i.e "I failed, I'm never going to succeed at this, I should just give up." I've talked about negative thinking too in previous takes, and it's times like this to apply previous tips, like the positivity journal. Or replacing your thoughts like "Yes, I failed, but everybody fails sometimes."
I learned what caused my slip-up, and I made note of how to avoid whatever caused it next time. It's easy to immediately tell yourself that you suck when you mess up, but that's not the case. You're human, we all slip up at times. Even if it's an ego damager, we learn from our mistakes and how to do better.
I think that sums up most of the things I have to say on the matter. Thanks for reading, I hope this helped you at least a little bit, and until next time I write, take care and keep glowing <3