In fact, research shows that moving to a new environment can help to change habits as we are not exposed to familiar triggers. Dan Ariely, author and James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, explains “If you move to a new place, you won’t have all of these environmental cues. If you take advantage of a time when you go on vacation, or when you do something else for a few weeks, those are really good times to break a habit.”
7. Be patient
It is highly likely that your bad habits have formed over a period of time and not in just a few days. Similarly, it will take adequate time to form a new healthy habit as it requires a lot dedication and commitment. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. explains “It’s unlikely you can change completely right away if this is an ingrained habit reinforced by others and caused by some self-defeating tendencies.” So “you’re not going to throw them off in an instant,” she adds.
In fact, according to a 2010 study titled ‘How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world’ published in The European Journal of Social Psychology, on average it usually takes 66 days to change a specific behavior. However, the time period can vary from 18 days to 254 days. So it is imperative that you remain patient and focus on progressing in a slow and stable manner to get rid of bad habits.
8. Share your goals with others
If you want to get rid of bad habits, then tell others about it. Sharing your goals with your family and friends can prove to be highly beneficial for changing your bad habits permanently. “When we tell others about a goal and we do not follow through on it, we are ‘punished’ with shame and a feeling that we let other people down,” explains Kauser Khan, a clinical hypnotherapist and homeopathic practitioner. Although shame should not be a motivator in this case, it surely is effective. By informing our friends and family about our goals to change bad habits, we become more likely to follow through on them. As we don’t want to seem like a failure, we give our best to break our bad habit.
According to a 2019 study by Ohio State University, sharing our goals with the right person can help us achieve it. The researchers discovered that our commitment and performance towards achieving a goal increase manifold when we share it with someone we look up to, someone we believe has a higher status than us. Howard Klein, lead author of the study and professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University, says “Contrary to what you may have heard, in most cases you get more benefit from sharing your goal than if you don’t – as long as you share it with someone whose opinion you value.” He adds “You don’t want them to think less of you because you didn’t attain your goal.”
9. Expect setbacks
If you want to get rid of bad habits, then it won’t be easy. If you are expecting a smooth ride, then you are in for a shock. “No one is immune from the occasional slip-up, so when this happens, don’t beat yourself up or retreat into negative self-talk,” explains Human Behavior professor Melody Wilding.
The only way to solidify your habit loop is to expect setbacks and effectively plan for them. Moreover, it is also important that you do not give in to negative self-talk. Tell yourself that it’s okay to slip up a few times as long as you are focused on achieving your goal in the long run. “If you use that slip as ‘proof’ that you can never change, you will in fact not be able to change. Instead, try to figure out why you slipped,” adds Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Time for change
Now that you know about the psychology of habits and how to get rid of bad habits, it is time you get started. However, remember that it all starts with awareness. By being aware of your own negative habits and behaviors, you can achieve great success in removing them from your life.
Of course, it will be difficult and take a lot of time to change a bad habit completely. However, if you are determined to get back up after every time you fail, you can manage to turn your life around and be healthier and happier. Bestselling author James Clear concludes “You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all.”