10 Ways to Change Any Habit, No Matter How Bad

03/14/2012

Eating cake photoWe all have our bad habits, some are bad for our health and others are just gross. These habits are often a result of living our lives on autopilot rather than sitting back and taking an aerial look at why we do the things we do. 

It’s also important that we not mix up bad habits with addictive behavior. Addictive behaviors like smoking, binge eating, and drug use are much more complicated than just a bad habit.

Here are 10 ways to turn your bad habit into a good behavior:

1. Tell Everyone 

If you really want to quit doing something, you’re likely embarrassed of it. Tell everyone so that your friends and family can help you stop too. 

2. Change Slowly 

Gradual changes are more likely to stick. If you want to switch to a healthier diet, pick one thing to change every week so that you gradually mold into a picture of health. This way you’re not making so many changes so fast that you’re bound to fail. 

3. Rearrange Your Life

You can’t change a bad habit without replacing the need it fulfills. If you’re a social drinker and you want to socialize without drinking, consider meeting friends at places other than bars or switching your vodka tonic to a club soda and lime. 

4. One Habit Per 30 Days

Give yourself at least 30 days to focus on one bad habit at a time. Whatever the habit, pinpoint it and focus all your energy on trying to break it. After 30 days bad habits are often replaced with good new behaviors. 

Gambling photo
Photo: Thinkstock

5. Think Positively About Yourself

If you don’t think you’re worth breaking a bad habit than you won’t do it. If you think negatively about yourself you also likely think you’re incapable of change. No matter how often you have to do it, remind yourself to maintain a positive self image.

6. Find New Good Habits

Fill the space of a bad habit with a new good habit. If you’re a nail biter, instead of biting your nails down to the knobs, get a pedicure every month. If you tend to overeat when you get home from work, go straight from work to yoga so that you won’t fall into your old traps. 

Weights and vegetables photo
Photo: Jupiterimages

7. Write It Down

Writing it down makes you accountable. It’s not just something that you’re thinking about doing, it’s something that you are doing. Write exactly the habit and the timeframe that you want to give it up and post it somewhere that you can see it everyday. Additionally, document your journey on giving up the habit in a journal. 

8. Bait and Switch

Sometimes it’s easier to replace a bad habit with a not as bad, temporary habit. Similar to nicotine gum, doing something still sort of bad helps you to get control of yourself just until you’re ready to dump the habit entirely. This goes back to the gradual weening of a habit as well. 

9. Practice Meditation

Add a meditation in during the part of the day when you feel most vulnerable. If you’re bound to overeat at a dinner party, take a few minutes to meditate before you go. The more conscious you are of your behavior, the more likely you are to stop what is not serving you. 

10. Keep it Simple

The more complicated your plan to stop a bad habit is, the more likely we can find a way to get around it. Keep it simple and it’s more likely to be effective. 

Photo: Brand X Pictures

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More on Habits
Is it true that if you do anything for three weeks it will become a habit? 
10 Bad Parenting Habits 
Changing Your Eating Habits During Pregnancy 
Break the Habit Game 


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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