How to break a bad habit?

Our lives are governed by our habits – the good and the bad. And it can be even harder to get rid of a bad habit than it is to develop a good one.

The background: Last week we collected the best hacks for you on how to form good habits. Today we bring you advice – from expert interviews and research studies – on how to get rid of the bad ones.

  • “Don’t believe in the nonsense the world has been spreading about breaking bad habits,” says BJ Fogg, a Stanford psychologist who studies habit formation. “If it were that simple, we wouldn’t have so many problems in the world.”
  • “Breaking bad habits is a much more complicated process than creating new ones.”

Here are our top tips for getting started:

  1. Make it difficult. It’s easier to curb a bad habit if you make it hard to do, Fogg says. If you’re tired of using your phone before bed, put it in another room.
  2. Design the bad habit out of your life. It’s hard to break a habit if you keep your environment exactly the same. If your goal is to lose weight, fill your fridge and pantry with the foods you feel comfortable snacking on instead of buying—and then resisting—the junk.
  3. Be patient with yourself. As we all know, these changes take time. But we are quick to blame ourselves or give up after a few mistakes. Treat yourself with grace and don’t expect perfection.
  4. Call in the experts. There are minor bad habits you can tackle on your own, such as nail biting or late night snacking, and others that are much more serious, such as substance abuse, notes Fogg. Make sure to seek professional help if you need it.
  5. To celebrate! As with good habits, it’s important to celebrate the small milestones on the way to breaking a bad habit. Write about it, tell your friends or post pictures – anything to boost those happy feelings in your brain.

Go deeper: Top Tips for Developing Good Habits That Last

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