We've all had a habit we wish we'd never started. Doughnuts for breakfast, a Diet Coke every day at lunch, a Marlboro or five while we drink, or something more serious, like taking pills or drinking to excess. At some point, most of us realize that we'd probably be better off without our vice, but breaking a bad habit is no easy task. Here are a few tips that can help.
1. Get in Touch. Mindfulness is key when it comes to quitting a bad habit, and keeping track is essential when you want to stop. Keep track of when you're engaging in your bad habit, and write down what you're thinking. Be honest when you're making notes. Are you reacting to stress? Boredom? Negative emotions? Everyone has triggers, and when you get a better handle on what trips you up, you can stay ahead of urges.
2. Get Together . No matter what the habit is, there is guaranteed to be someone else out there with the same issue. A quick search on Facebook or Google, and you're sure to find a support group of peers facing the same battle. Be sure to ask friends and family for support, too. Be upfront about what the habit is, how you feel about it, and why you want to quit. The people around you want you to succeed as much as you do. Give them the information they need to support you.
3. Get a Hobby. When you quit any habit, you'll experience some type of withdrawal, which typically manifests in mental symptoms like anxiety or irritability but can also produce physical symptoms like headaches or worse. Be prepared to weather the withdrawal and cravings with the help of a new hobby. Hobbies are important when you're working to change a bad habit, because they contribute to stress relief and help keep your mind occupied with other pleasurable pursuits. There are thousands of maker spaces and crafting clubs nationwide, and almost every city is rife with athletic clubs for bikers, runners, bowlers, skiers — you name it. Join up.
4. Get Help. Anyone can successfully stop a bad habit, whether it's chewing your nails
or drinking to excess. But you have to be realistic: Some habits and almost all
addictions require professional help to overcome, because they involve physical
changes in the brain and are deeply rooted in a variety of issues that need to
If you've repeatedly tried to end your bad habit but find that you always go back to it, there's a reason, and an experienced therapist who specializes in addictions and habits can help you figure it out and let go of it once and for all. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that willpower and good intentions are rarely enough to end an addiction. Bonus: Therapy will not only help you end your bad habit, but it can help you improve all areas of your life for greater overall happiness and wellbeing.
If you're experiencing symptoms of mental illness or think you may have a substance abuse problem, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you find the assistance you need to address it.
5. Get More Info. Many habits and addictions develop as a way to cope with stress and other negative feelings and emotions. Treatable mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can also lead to bad habits and a lack of self-care. Reading up on why we develop bad habits and addictions can help you understand your own reasons for engaging in a bad habit and knowing why you do it makes it easier to figure out how to stop.