We’ve all got bad habits. From our eating habits to spending too much time scrolling on social media, procrastination to our spending habits, we all have something we’d like to work on to help us grow. So, today’s post is about just that: how to kick bad habits (and replace them with good ones!).
“In this way, the process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
First, let’s talk about bad habits:
Remind yourself that no habit is inherently bad
Some habits can be negative for us, in that they’re unhealthy or destructive, that they limit our opportunities and stunt our growth. But it’s important to remember that they weren’t created that way. Many bad habits are created accidentally, in times of stress or in situations that we don’t know how to deal with. They’re defence mechanisms. And when we created them, they were the best we could do to make it through.
What’s your winning formula?
In his book, Sacred Powers (an excellent book for anyone interested in spirituality and self-help), author Davidji discusses the idea of ‘winning formulas’. Essentially, these are processes and defences we created as children to help us deal with situations. He uses the example of being the class clown as a child, to make up for the attention he lacked from his parents. But then, as an adult, he found himself reduced to simply ‘the funny guy’, unable to have deep conversations and connections with people. He didn’t want to be just ‘the funny guy’ anymore, nor did he need to be. His winning formula, that had helped him through as a child was now holding him back.
So, the first step in this process is to stop judging and blaming your habits.
Thank them for getting you this far and truly accept that you did the best you could at that time. Then, we can move on to change the habit and reshape it. Not because it’s inherently bad, but because you no longer need it and because it’s damaging for you to keep around.
Making a change to a habit is a chance to do something positive for yourself. It’s a chance to grow. So take it slow, be positive and optimistic, and most importantly of all, be kind to yourself.
Start to understand your habit
The next step to help kick your bad habits, is to begin to understand them. By knowing your habit better, you can start to loosen the ties between you and your habit at the deepest level. It may be helpful to write your answers to the following questions down.
When and where?
When and where did you create your habit? When and where do you tend to do it? Is there anywhere you’d never do it? These questions will help you start to uncover some of the things that may trigger your habits. Say you wanted to kick an unhealthy snacking habit, knowing that you always snack when you’re bored on your commute home will help you put practices in place to target that habit in particular.
Why do you do your habit? And why did you create it in the first place? Maybe you’ve created a habit that gives you a sense of comfort. Maybe you do it out of boredom. Maybe it’s something you picked up from someone else. Whatever your reason is, try to understand it. With a better understanding, you’ll be able to pick better actions to combat it. Being understanding will also help you be kinder to your habits.
What are your triggers?
We’ve already touched on this, but it’s really important to know what encourages you to do your habit. Sometimes, you may not even know you’re doing it, so this would be a good one to get your family and friend’s input on too. When you know what your triggers are, you can work out how to minimise them and change your reaction.
If you need it, find help
Dependent on what your habit is, you might want to seek help in others to help you kick your bad habit. If it’s a problem that’s affecting your life, something you feel you can’t deal with on your own or if you’d just like some professional help, consider therapy options. Therapy is an option for anyone, so even if you don’t think your habit or problems are ‘that bad’ it’s still a great way to get some wisdom and experienced, tailored advice to help you through.
Otherwise, family and friends can be a great help. As an outside perspective, they may be able to help you figure out your habit and provide insights you’d never have noticed by yourself.
If going to family and friends isn’t an option, finding a community group, online or in person, or finding people online with similar stories can provide you with tons of insight, inspiration and support.
How to replace bad habits with good habits
The easiest way to kick a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. But, there’s also an element of danger here, so let’s walk through the process.
Make sure your new habit is a good habit
Something I see happening again and again, is people replacing bad habits with a habit that, whilst better than the first one, doesn’t really combat the core problem.
Say you want to kick that unhealthy snacking habit we spoke about earlier – replacing that habit with healthy snacks is a definite improvement. And it might be the solution, if the problem is that the snacks were unhealthy. But if the problem is the snacking itself, it’s an improvement, but it doesn’t tackle the core habit.
To really get to the root of the problem, you’d want to create a good habit of eating more intuitively to see whether you are actually hungry and in need of a snack, or whether you’re eating out of boredom or habit. Or to changing your diet so that you didn’t need to snack at all.
This can be quite tricky terrain and looking deeply and objectively at the habits we’ve had for years is really hard. If you can reach out to someone, I’d suggest talking through this with them. Having an outside opinion can be really valuable.
Combat your triggers
This is the really tricky bit. Once you’ve truly understood your habit and highlighted all the things that can trigger it, you need to start combatting those triggers.
It’s not easy and it’ll often feel more like seeing how long you can go between instances. There’s no way to instantly turn off the impulses that have had years of creating tunnels and burrows in our brains. But you will get there eventually.
How can you combat triggers?
- Ask the people around you to call you out when they notice your habit
- Limit and remove any triggers you can (and if you need to reintroduce them later, do so slowly once you start getting better at catching yourself)
- Check in with yourself throughout the day to see if you’ve done/are doing your habit (setting random phone alarms or asking someone to spontaneously text you a reminder works for this)
- Have visual reminders (your phone lockscreen, post-its around your home, a note in the car – get creative!)
- Sometimes, it’s nothing but sheer repetition and willpower. Everytime you come face to face with your habit, try to tackle/resist it. This will get easier every time, I promise.
It’s important to remember not to kick yourself, like we said earlier. The more you become aware of your habit, the more frequently you’ll catch yourself doing it. It might even be more than you originally thought. But that’s no reason to despair! If you’re noticing it more, that’s a good thing, because that means you’re becoming more aware, noticing it quicker and are able to stop it more and more frequently. Good job!
Hopefully this has been a good guide to help you start to kick bad habits. You might also find my guide for sticking to your goals helpful for this topic too. Remember, as I’ve said throughout, that this is a process. You’ll need to give it time, attention and a lot of kindness and patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
Wishing you all the best. Love, Ella-Rose xx
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