HABITS - PART 2:  5 Tips for Breaking Bad Habits    




One of my toughest challenges, and greatest successes, was when I quit smoking... for good.  I had smoked for nearly 15 years, and like many, had started in high school, because it was the cool thing to do.  However, when my 30s came, I took a long hard look at my state of health, and realized I had to make some drastic changes, and take control, before it was too late.  

I had slowly implemented a lifestyle change which began with educating myself on nutrition, cleaning up my diet, and incorporating more nutritious food.  I also began to exercise on a regular basis.  After gradually adopting these lifestyle changes (and I mean gradually), I knew that the smoking had to go.  In my mind, I felt like a hypocrite, and I had a hard time facing myself.  It took several attempts, but I was finally able to kick the habit once and for all.  It has been 5 years, and I have not looked back, or had a single craving since.  

How did I accomplish this?  By utilizing the tips below.  I promise you, if you give it your all and really commit to loving yourself, and putting your well-being first, you will break that bad habit.  

Before we dive into these tips, let's briefly review some of the fundamentals of habits so we can understand exactly how habits work.  Habits revolve around a 3-part sequence:

  • Trigger or Cue - Habits are brought on by a trigger or cue.  For example, eating a meal, or having morning coffee, can be triggers to lighting up a cigarette.

  • Routine - This is the actual behavior of the habit.

  • Reward - The feeling you get after completing the habit.  Your brain releases dopamine at this time, which makes you feel good, and thus encourages the behavior again, and again, and again. 

 Here are 5 tips to help get you on your way to breaking bad habits: 

  1. Find your WHY.  It all begins here.  Really dig deep and ask yourself why do you want to break this habit.  Is it because you want to be there for your daughter's high school graduation, or your grandson's wedding?  Write this down, and spend time envisioning your life both with, and without, the habit.  What do you see?  How does it make you feel?

  2. Make slow and small changes.  Just like with implementing good habits, slow and steady wins the race.  It is much easier to stick to a new change or routine, when it is small.  

  3. Replace a bad habit with a good habit.  This is key, as it is much easier to replace a bad habit with a good one than it is to completely stop a habit altogether.  For me, I began with replacing my after-dinner smoke, with a walk, going to the gym, or coloring (adult coloring books were all the rage then.)  The coloring was actually super helpful, because it was also meditative and helped keep my mind off the craving.  

  4. Understand and be mindful of what triggers your habit.  When you understand what triggers you to engage in the behavior, you can prepare and plan alternative ways to deal with, change, or replace the trigger.  Change your environment/routine.  This will help break the trigger-routine pattern.  

  5. Implement the 100% rule.  The premise of this rule is this:  being committed to something 98% or 99% is more difficult than being 100% committed.  Think about it, at 99% you are not all in, and you leave space for that mental tug-of-war.  When you're 100% committed to something, you'll develop this "do what it takes" mentality and attitude.  This is fascinating, and I can tell you from experience that it works!  I did this years ago, without even realizing this was a thing.  Decide in your mind, once and for all, that you DON'T do this habit, or that you are not a person who does X.  For me, I had finally decided one day that I am not smoker.  When I made that decision and committed 100% in my mind that I am not a smoker, it was like a switch had flipped.  I no longer identified with being a smoker, and the temptation and tug of war in my mind left.  I also did what it took to get the job done, which at that time was cutting out alcohol completely for a few months, as alcohol was my biggest trigger.

Another key factor to all of this is trying to keep your stress levels down by taking better care of yourself.  Make sure you're getting enough sleep, and exercise.  Seek alternative ways to reduce stress, such as meditation and exercise.  Remember that self-reflection and mindfulness are powerful tools when it comes to achieving goals, whether it be attaining something, or breaking a habit. 

We see how influential habits are in our lives.  Having a good understanding of how they work, and their impact in our day-to-day lives, and decision-making, can be extremely beneficial in shaping your life.  For a deeper dive, I highly recommend the book The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

Thinking about making a change?  Do it.  You’ve got this!

Thanks for reading!