How To Get Rid Of Bad Habits Using Psychology: 9 Science-Backed Ways

how to get rid of bad habits using psychology

How To Get Rid Of Bad Habits

If you are keen on breaking your bad habits and replace them with new, healthier habits to live a better life, then here are a few psychology-based ways to help you get rid of bad habits.

1. Identify the habit loop

Analyzing the habit loop and the cause of your bad habit is the crucial first step to breaking out of it. Be aware the next time you engage in your routine of the habit, focus on the cue that triggered it and the reward it provides.

Melody Wilding writes “Look at the circumstances surrounding the behavior including the time of day, who you’re with, and what emotions you’re feeling.” Make sure to write down your cue, routine, and reward every time to be able to diagnose it better. 

Analyzing your toxic habits in detail will help you become increasingly aware of your bad habits and find helpful alternatives. “This awareness will transform your habit from an automatic, subconscious routine to a deliberate, conscious behavior,” explains an article on Medium.

2. Focus on the new, not the old

Most of the time, when we decide to break a bad habit, we tend to focus excessively on the routine itself which we need to stop. This immediately puts us into a negative frame of mind where we are constantly thinking about how not to think about the routine. And as a result, we end up thinking about the bad habit more than we do otherwise. This is why we often fall back to bad habits even after making progress.

According to an article published in TIME, research has revealed that when we try to suppress a thought or emotion, it becomes stronger and compels us to think about it. According to a 2008 study, resistance is directly linked to behavioral rebound. It found that people who tried to not think about eating chocolate actually ate more chocolate than others. Another 2010 study showed that smokers who tried to suppress their thoughts regarding smoking smoked even more. 

Related: 5 Simple Habits That Will Make You A Creative Genius

What we need to do is shift our focus from negative goals to positive goals. So instead of telling ourselves what we can’t or shouldn’t do, we need to tell ourselves what we should or must do. So if you want to stop eating junk food, focus more on eating healthy and exercising than stopping your poor eating habits. This is one of the crucial ways to get rid of bad habits.

How To Get Rid Of Bad Habits Using Psychology: 9 Science-Backed Ways

3. Look for better alternatives

Once you have figured out the cue, routine, and reward of your bad habit and built a positive frame of mind, explore healthier substitutes that you can use to replace your bad habits. Building new routines will empower you to accomplish your new goals. “Whatever it is and whatever you’re dealing with, you need to have a plan for what you will do instead of your bad habit,” writes James Clear.

Create a list of options,” suggests Melody. It is important that you focus on building new routines that will enable you to “decompress after a stressful day (the cue) and leave you in a positive frame of mind to get freelance work done (reward),” she adds.

4. Set realistic goals

Another way to get rid of bad habits is to set clear goals. Instead of having a vague goal, like eating healthier, focus on building specific, realistic goals that you can actually achieve. Think about what exactly you want to eat to get healthier, for instance. Research online and create a diet chart or visit a nutritionist for some professional help.

Creating realistic and specific goals will help you take effective action that will ensure you build a new healthier habit in the long run. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. writes “Decide on a realistic schedule that will work for you based on goals that you believe you can meet.”

It is also important that you do not judge your decisions or efforts based on your past situation of failures. Professor of psychology at Stanford University, Russell Poldrack, says “Habits are an adaptive feature of how the brain works.” He adds “It’s always going to be easier to react based on something you’ve already planned out in the past versus trying to come up with a new plan on the fly.” This is why you must plan out how exactly you will build your new habits and develop the right mindset.

Related: If You Have THESE 3 Bad Habits, You Might Be Exceptionally Intelligent: Studies Say

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