Bad habits are hard. They’re insidious, but powerful. They can eat away at productivity, health, growth, and relationships. I don’t think anyone will every say that they love being glued to their social media accounts or scrolling through dating apps, or any other bad habit you can think of – “extreme” or not.
Am I completely cured of all bad habits? No, of course not, but combating these things when I see them has helped me tremendously. I’ve pulled together a few of my favorite tips for breaking bad habits into a few sections starting with, you guessed it, “where to start.”
Where to start with your bad habits:
Know what the bad habit is. Is your bad habit scrolling through dating apps? Or are you looking for validation and if you deleted the apps you’d just scroll elsewhere? Are you biting your nails and not even noticing, but you’ve recognized that your nails aren’t looking too hot? Acknowledging the bad habit, and that it is indeed a bad habit, is the first step.
Know how it started. So many bad habits begin as a slippery slope. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your habit of collecting mugs in your bedroom.
Know why you want it gone. What is is doing to your life, productivity, relationships, goals, etc? Is it draining your creativity? Clogging up your room? Pushing people away? It isn’t enough to have your sister or father tell you it’s a bad habit. To make any change you have to want the change.
Know the triggers. Here are a few example questions you can ask yourself:
- Who – are there certain people that make you want to do the bad habit, encourage the bad habit, or started the habit with you? Do you need to unfollow anyone online?
- When – do you start scrolling social media immediately when you wake up? Do you toss your dirty laundry on the floor of the bathroom instead of your hamper when you’ve had a long day at work and are exhausted?
- Where – do you pick up your phone immediately when get in bed or are standing in line waiting for coffee? Are you more likely to do the bad habit when you’re with people or at home alone?
How how it makes you feel,
- Before you do the bad habit – can you feel the bad habit coming on? For the sake of example, when I’m bored and habitually scroll Instagram I’m thinking, “just five minutes, I know I should do something productive, but I’ll do something productive in five minutes.”
- While you’re doing the bad habit – are you actively feeling satisfaction, or has it become mindless? I’m thinking, “the vast majority of these people I don’t even know…”
- After you’ve done the bad habit – does it feel good for even a second? Or do you just feel worse? I’m thinking, “why did her post get so many more likes than mine? How has it been 30 minutes?”
How to combat the bad habits:
Pick a good habit to replace it with. If you’re only focusing on the bad stuff, you’re rarely (at least in my experience) going to keep up with progress. For Lent (the 40 days before Easter), many people give up something – like sweets, Netflix, etc, – but without adding something like extra Bible or prayer time (as examples) it can just feel like you’re doing a cleanse.
For example, put your DuoLingo (language learning app) in the same spot you currently have your Instagram app. If you click it, you have to do a lesson.
Rephrase your habit building. Think about how you’ve made it three days eating cleaner and working out, rather than three days without chocolate chip cookies.
Reward thoughtfully. If you’re trying to workout more regularly and avoid sitting on the couch, it may be tempting to buy the cute new workout gear right away. Try waiting until you’ve worked out consistently for a month (or two, or three) before making any purchases.
Find, or create, accountability. There are likely people in your life struggling with similar bad habits (or at least would support you in trying to change yours). I’m doing Whole30 again this month (September 2020) and it’s such a blessing to have a friend doing it with me – we swap recipes and know someone else going through the same carb withdrawals. Even just saying the bad habit out loud to someone makes it feel more real.
Fun challenge: on the iPhone, there is capability in Shortcuts to have your phone text someone every time you open a certain app.
Remove the triggers and/or create barriers. Sometimes you may just need to leave the room or not go to that party. You may need to delete Angry Birds. You may need to just not buy junk food.
Remove yourself from the situation, at least temporarily. Whether you get up and leave the room or sit in your hammock outside (like I did while brainstorming this post!) this usually brings extra mental clarity.
Press the mute button. Turn off (metaphorically or literally) the voices (internal or external) that either push you to do the bad habit or discourage the good one.
Start goal setting or mind mapping.
Stick with it. I love having a random day off work here and there, but I find that these are the kind of days that allow me to slip back into bad habits because I don’t have the same responsibilities that I do on “normal days.” This day doesn’t really count so it doesn’t matter if all I’ve done all day is scroll Instagram, right? Unfortunately not the case.
Recommendations for further research:
Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear*
Phone app: Streaks, Habit
Please seek medical help for any bad habits taking over your life or causing extreme distress. I’m not a doctor or mental health provider of any sort, but over the years I’ve found a few things that have worked well for me.
*Affiliate link. All opinions my own. This post is not sponsored.