Habits: Those things you do all the time. Sometimes they are surprisingly good, unhealthy and some even ruin your daily mojo. Breaking a habit is easier said than done. Breaking a habit requires a lot of time and effort on your part to change it. And change can be scary too.
Bustle recently interviewed two therapists about how to stop your habits and we have curated their expert advice for you.
1. See The Future Without The Habit
Licensed psychotherapist Bianca L. Rodrigues, M.Ed, LMFT explains that:
“research has demonstrated that focusing on how good you’ll feel after following through on a challenging behavior is more effective than focusing on how terrible you’ll feel if you don’t. I recommend that you focus on the feelings and positive outcomes you experience after you do accomplish a difficult task, and use this as fuel to motivate you.”
So think about what breaking your habit will mean in the future, rather than how tough it may be to break your habit. For example, if you want to lay off the coffee because it makes you anxious, rather than focusing on the withdrawal symptoms you may go through, think about how less anxious and more focused you’ll feel after you quit.
Mindfulness can be one of those buzzwords but it is a practice that is extremely effective at improving your physical and mental health. By practicing mindfulness you can even gain more awareness about your unhealthy habits, helping you overcome them. Not all mindfulness practices are for everyone, so check out this article for some different types.
3. Replace The Void Of The Old Habit
Nine Perales, LCSW says that all types of habits provide you with some sort of gratification. So Perales says “the best way to change a habit is to be aware of it, and then replace it with something else. Then, you repeat this new habit over and over again.”
By doing this new habit instead of the old one, you rewire your brain and help the habit become less of an automatic behavior.
4. Identify What Triggers The Habit
Rodriguez explains, “identify what triggers the habit; it’s usually a feeling like restlessness or boredom. Knowing what begins the cycle of your habit can help you divert your attention to something more helpful.”
This way you can start on your quest to find a good habit that will help that restlessness or boredom. Check out this article for some good habits.
5. Let Someone In On Your Habit So You Can Be Held Accountable
Breaking a bad habit alone can be tough. It’s easy to just give in when you’re only facing yourself and the habits are second nature. Perales suggests looking for a therapist or accountability partner to help keep you on track. Identify barriers and reinforce your new habit as you progress.
6. Be Kind To Yourself
Perales explains that breaking an unhealthy habit is hard. It is better to think there is a one-step fix to your unhealthy habits but there just isn’t. She suggests practicing a nonjudgmental mindset and to be gentle with yourself. You’re expected to slip up a few times. Breaking your habit also takes a lot of time and energy.
Being harsh on yourself will only make you more stressed and less likely to break the habit. Be gentle.
7. Be Realistic
It is a common myth that it takes 21 days to break any habit. Mental health professionals though suggest that this is not true and can vary from individual. A psychologist told Hope&Fears that it could be expected to take 6 months minimum and only if you’re committed to the change.
Rodriguez explains that you should have attainable goals rather than reaching too high. Set realistic expectations: if you’ve been drinking coffee every day for 10 years you’re not going to be able to quit cold turkey. She suggests small goals–just ease off the coffee.
We hope these expert tips will help you to break your bad habits. Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself-self-care is a journey.