Practical, smart and effective ways to break bad habits permanently (science based)
  • “The secret to permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit.” — Bryant McGill
  • “All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.” — Zig Ziglar
  • “You cannot change your future; but, you can change your habits, and surely your habits…will change your future.” — Dr. Abdul Kalam
  • “Saying NO to the wrong things creates space to say YES to the right things.” — Mack Story
  • “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
  • “REAL TRANSFORMATION requires real honesty. If you want to move forward – get real with yourself.” –  Bryant McGill

Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol a lot?

Are you spending too much time on social media or in front of television? Are you picking your teeth in public? Are you checking your mobile phone constantly at dinner or meeting?

Wanna get rid of them? You tried to get rid of them, but you can’t, sometimes you feel impossible to get rid of?

Now it’s time to break your bad habits along with practical, smart and effective ways.

Why breaking a bad habit is hard?

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, breaking a bad habit is hard because there are several parts of your brain that associate your cravings with the bad habits.

To understand why breaking bad habit is hard, we need to know how habit works. Every habit consists of 3 parts, those work as a loop in a sequence.

  • Part 1: Trigger (The thing/event that inspires to start the habit)
  • Part 2: Routine (The doing of the the behaviour)
  • Part 3: Reward (The advantage/profit associated with the behaviour)

For example, you have a bad habit of drinking alcohol at evening. Your habit loop/sequence works like the following:

  • Part 1: Trigger (You feel stress from long day work)
  • Part 2: Routine (You drink alcohol)
  • Part 3: Reward (You temporary feel better or relief from stress)

Each and every time you repeat this sequence/loop, it becomes more ingrained in your brain and one day it eventually becomes automatic (habit).

Here shared couple of proven scientific methods/approaches those will help you to break your bad habits permanently.

Method 1: Avoid “I can’t”, rather use “I don’t”

Avoiding “I can’t”, and using “I don’t” could help you to make better options. According to research published at Journal of Consumer Research, empowered refusal motivates goal directed behaviour. Using “I don’t” instead of using “I can’t” has emotional power to have goal driven behaviour. In this research, 120 students were splitted into two groups. One group was told to repeat the phrases “I don’t” and another group to repeat phrases “I can’t”. For example, if presented with chocolate, then first group will say “I don’t eat chocolate” and the second group will say “I can’t eat chocolate”. Each group was then promoted to answer some quick questions, those were not related to the study. While they completed their answer sheet, when they walked out the room they were presented with two complimentary treats, one is chocolate candy bar and another healthy granola bar. Researchers found that, students who used phrases “I can’t eat chocolate”, choose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61 percent of the time while students who used phrases “I don’t eat chocolate”, they only chose to eat 36 percent of the time.

Method 2: Use an “if-them” approach to replace the bad habit through a good habit

Most of the cases, having a goal to break a bad habit is not strong enough to stop the habit. You need more than that! What’s that? An Action! Yes, an action (intentional plan based action) is required to break a bad habit.

According to research by Peter Gollwitzer, professor at New York University, “if-then” approach based strategy works better to achieve any person’s goal, which works perfect to break a bad habit.

There are 3 steps to create the “if-then” approach based strategy. At first, you may think this approach and steps are too simple, but, overtime, you’ll notice how strong and effective it can be helpful to break your bad habit.

Step 1. Identify the condition/circumstance that triggers your bad habit.

Step 2. Identify a different response to the trigger which is healthy and good.

Step 3. Combine “Step 1” and “Step 2” in an “if-then” format.  

For example, you take unhealthy chocolate bad every evening while you are too tired after long day office. If you break down along with the steps, then,

Step 1. Identify the condition/circumstance that triggers your bad habit. After long day office work, you feel tremendous tired. Then you take chocolate bar.

Step 2. Identify a different response to the trigger which is healthy and good. You will analyze which healthy food or drinks you like most. For example, orange drink.

Step 3. Combine “Step 1” and “Step 2” in an “if-then” format. After long day office work, when you feel tired, you will not eat “chocolate bar”, rather you will drink your favorite “orange juice”.

Method 3: Do regular mindfulness practice & be aware of your bad habit trigger

According to research on “Positive impact of mindfulness training on breaking the bad habit of smoking” conducted by researchers of Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, USA; to quit smoking bad habit, mindfulness training helps around 300 percent compared to regular therapy. They reported a 36 percent smoking quit rate compared to 15 percent through regular therapy.

How to practice mindfulness? It involves breathing method, and other methods like guided imagery to relax the body and mind. It allows you to use all your senses to direct your imagination to a relaxed, grateful and focused state. In breathing method, you will take 7 or 10 slow, and deep breaths.

When a craving of bad habit hits you, try the followings:

  • Stop, take a couple of slow and deep breaths and notice what’s going on right now.
  • Try to recognize the physical feelings in your body. You may feel stressed. Take a moment to step away from what you’re doing. Then focus on your slow and deep breaths.
  • Take a walk in outdoor for 5 to 10 minutes. Walk slowly and focus on being there.
  • Involve yourself fully in something you enjoy, it can be your hobby or talk with your family members or loved ones.

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