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How to Break a Bad Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

Let’s be honest — everyone has at least one bad habit that they’ve been meaning to change. But we usually keep it because it comes so naturally to us. At its core, a bad habit is a behavior that we’ve repeated so many times that we do it without even thinking about it. But what happens when you really want to change it?

It’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible to break a bad pattern in your life. Some changes require more effort than others but here are three tips that will help you to get on the right track:

1. Reframe your thinking

Living differently starts by thinking differently. Quite simply, if you change your mind then you change your life. Being negative about your new changes will only defeat you. Don’t think about it as a loss — instead, think about all the things you’re gaining by changing your habits. For example: maybe you used to treat yourself to a cupcake as a reward after putting in a hard day’s work. Instead of thinking about how it’s so hard to resist buying that cupcake, think about how you’re rewarding yourself with greater health, which will benefit you in the long run. Instead of feeling deprived, feel empowered. Constantly remind yourself of why you’re making these changes and that will help when you feel tempted to fall back into your bad habit.

2. Replace your bad habit with a good one

It’s important that you have something to fill the void that you’re going to create by getting rid of the bad habit. Let’s keep going with the cupcake example: it’s not enough to just resist eating a cupcake after work — your body still will physically expect and crave that sugar rush.  And let’s be honest: willpower only lasts for so long. Instead, set yourself up for success by replacing that habit with a better one. Even if you ultimately want to stop using food as a reward, start off slow and build up to it. For instance, you could replace cupcakes with a small portion of fruit instead. Then when you’re able to resist cupcakes without much of a struggle, you can try replacing your food-reward system with something else — like a walk around the block or a deposit into your savings account. Change doesn’t have to be all or nothing — it’s all about getting better one step at a time.

3. Just do it

Sometimes in order to change a bad habit, you just have to do it and stick with it. It’s very tempting to just give up or to not even begin. Instead of waiting until Monday… (or next month… or next year to start), the best time to start is now. It’s natural to feel some resistance to change because you’ve likely had this bad habit for a very long time. It’s important, however, to feel the discomfort, acknowledge it, and then keep going. Even if you really, really, really want that cupcake, continue to replace it with something else. Keep doing this until it’s not so difficult anymore (and it really will get easier with time if you keep at it). Most habits are created by repeated action — and most habits can be broken by repeating a different action.

You can change, really, but it takes hard work. Think positively about your new change, get a new (healthy) habit to replace the old one, and just keep at it. Remember that each day you break your habit is one more day that you just spent being the best you that you can be!


Image Credit: Andreyah Portilla / Flickr

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Erika Oglesby

Erika Oglesby is a freelance writer and wandering nomad currently located in Grand Rapids, MI. She is dedicated to helping people better their lives through self-knowledge and alternative therapies -- especially women of color and women diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. Visit her website at


+ add your own
3:41AM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Thanks for this article.

4:39AM PDT on Apr 17, 2013


10:31AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013


10:15AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

thanks for sharing

2:11AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013


7:31AM PDT on Mar 22, 2013

Good Stuff. Thank You.

6:42AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013


12:53AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

I have learned that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Write each day down in a calendar and in 21 days your bad habit will be gone! If you had a weak moment and didn't last 21 days just start your 21 days new from that moment. It really works! Reward yourself when you have achieved your goal.

4:14AM PDT on Mar 10, 2013


12:18AM PST on Feb 24, 2013


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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