Whether it’s biting nails, drinking too much soda, overspending or smoking, most people have a habit they’d like to kick to the curb. Here are four tips on how to say sayonara to your vices so you can kick a bad habit and make better choices.
1. Replace the bad habit with a good one—or at least one that’s more benign.
It’s easier to change a mental pattern than to reconstruct it entirely, according to psychologists. If you’ve already trained your brain to respond a certain way in a particular situation (wake up, drink a soda), you can direct it to respond to the same situation with a slightly different activity (wake up, drink green tea).
2. Make a plan.
If watching TV after 8:00 p.m. triggers a craving for potato chips, be ready with a strategy. Maybe you could buy pretzels or baked tortilla chips and salsa for your evening snack next time you go to the grocery store. Being proactive and prepared for trigger situations will help you better handle temptation next time.
3. Reward yourself for small successes.
It’s human nature to appreciate a pat on the back, even if it’s from yourself. Psychologists know this, and so do kindergarten teachers and moms who wallpaper the bathroom with behavior charts. Positive reinforcement really works.
4. Accept failure (at first).
There’s an irony to the way habits work: The more you try not to think about them, the more you think about them. This may explain why some people try to kick a bad habit, but actually find themselves doing it more—at least initially. The resulting disappointment often sends them deeper into the clutches of their vice. Experts suggest viewing this as “just a phase” in the larger process of breaking a habit and one that will end if you stay persistent in your goal.
Kick a bad habit with these simple tips and don’t stress if it takes you a few tries before it sticks. It’s been said that it takes 21 days to change a habit, so get started!