How to Break a Habit and Change Your Behavior

Many people form habits, and not all habits are bad habits. Many people have good habits, or habits they’ve become accustomed to and can’t imagine living without. But in some cases, people begin to despise the habits they’ve made, and try to learn how to break a habit and a behavior that they no longer accept, making room for new ideas and habits to form.

The Nature of a Habit

Habits take approximately 60 days to form. 60 days of doing something over and over again, like eating a specific meal, picking at scabs, or having coffee for breakfast. Habits are formed when someone finds something comforting about what they are doing, and the individual finds stability in the habit and they continue it, mostly because they do not want to put in the effort and challenge themselves to form new and better habits.

Breaking a habit takes lots of work and commitment. In order to work through your subconscious mannerisms, it takes a certain amount of ability to recognize your subconscious mannerisms and then begin to break them down and change them.

There are thousands of books looking at the science behind habits, and how the reward center in the brain encourages us to go to something that makes us feel good when we feel bad, thus forming habits. So what does it take to work through and break a bad habit? What are the steps and the best processes? What is the difference between a bad habit and a good habit?

When Does a Habit Become Bad?

A habit becomes bad when it becomes detrimental to your health, the health of others, or even if you feel as though you are not living life to the fullest because you are continuing this habit.

Some people prefer to clear out their old habits to make room for different and new habits, resulting in the search for how to break the habit. In this case, the habit is not necessarily bad or negative to the health of the individual, but it may be perceived as bad to the person conducting the habit. In that case, what are some techniques and skills that someone can go about to break a habit?

Breaking a Habit

What are the best ways of breaking a habit? Psychology and mindfulness professionals have looked into this for generations, resulting in a long, cognizant list to help those who want to break a habit do so.

1. Recognize and define the habit you want to change. Understand why you believe this habit is bad, and know what habit you want to replace it with.

Some important questions to ask:

Why do I want to remove this habit?

What caused this habit?

Do I want to replace this habit, or do I want to remove it altogether?

2. Know your triggers. Habits are formed on the basis of a trigger, action, reward system. Understanding what triggers your habit to take place is the most important part of moving forward and breaking the habits.

3. Deal with your triggers. Understanding why, in your subconscious, your trigger causes your habit is imperative to starting to deal with your habit. Using mindfulness, you can be aware of what causes you to revert to the habit, and actively choose to do something else. This technique is often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to deal with negative thoughts and anxiety, and it is one of the best routes to take in order to work through habits.

4. Developing a plan to change the habit. Writing down what you want to change and developing a plan of action is imperative for breaking a habit.

Start by writing something down for something to do instead of the habit you wish to break. E.g, if you have a habit of overthinking before you go to sleep, try listening to music or taking melatonin to avoid the overthinking. Although this substitute may not be permanent, it is an important step in moving forward to break the habit.

5. Reward yourself. Since a habit originates through a trigger, action, reward system, it’s important to reward yourself when you don’t do the habit. For example, if you are breaking a habit of having coffee every morning, find something to get instead of coffee, like water or tea.

Going through these steps is an important part of breaking a habit, but there are multiple ways to go about removing a habit from your life.

Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Break a Habit

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT ) focuses on identifying certain, mostly negative, thought processes and habits when they happen. CBT is, in huge part, mindfulness. By using CBT, you are consciously working to replace a thought process with something different. You start by identifying painful or triggering thoughts and being aware that this is a thought that is causing your habit.

Although this is uncomfortable, understanding the thoughts and triggers is important in CBT. Then you decide whether the thoughts are realistic or not. Moving forward from that, you actively start to work through the thoughts and triggers you have by identifying them as realistic or unrealistic. From there, you are able to acknowledge the thoughts that are unrealistic and causing you harm, and have an ability to change the way the thoughts come into your head helps those who struggle with negative thoughts change the way they think and create more positive thought processes.

So how does this work with breaking a habit? Using CBT to break a habit is very similar to using it to discourage negative thoughts. You start by identifying the thoughts that cause your habit, and begin to catch yourself before you actually take part in the habit. You work through your subconscious practices and begin to stop yourself beforehand, or are able to actively change what you decide to do in that moment. These are key steps to breaking a habit, but all of this is hard work: knowing that you really want to break the habit you despise, or that it is necessary, is the most important part of the process.

Using the Subconscious to Help Break a Habit

Using mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy, you can use these tips and tricks in order to work on breaking a habit. It’s important to understand your subconscious thinking, why your habit formed, and how necessary it is for you to break it. Knowing your subconscious thinking is not only imperative for breaking a habit, but imperative for staying true to yourself and understanding how you think. By being aware of your flaws and your habits and having the ability to change them, you have an unlimited strength and understanding of yourself that not many people reach in their lifetime.

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