We all have a bad habit or two we could stand to lose, but habits are hard to break. Whether your bad habit is procrastinating, overspending, swearing, or any other one you want to change, here are ten tips to break free of negative behavior patterns.
10. Fine Yourself for Each Offense
Make a bad habit a little more painful and you might ditch it for good. Money is a great motivator, so you can use the “swear jar” method or pay your friends $1 each time they catch you doing that thing you want to stop doing. It works the other way too: Reward yourself for beating your habit every day. 21Habit rewards or penalizes you a dollar a day for 21 days of committing to a habit.
9. Understand What Triggers Your Bad Habits
Understanding how we make decisions is the key to conquering all kinds of bad habits, including money ones. Often, we repeat bad habits without even realize we’re doing them. There are five cues that usually contribute to every bad habit, though, and being aware of them can help us learn what’s behind those behaviors.
8. Go Slow and Make Tiny Changes
Forming better new habits takes time and effort, but breaking established bad habits may be even harder. So be patient with yourself and instead of making dramatic adjustments, try focusing on one habit and the smallest steps you can take to “trick your inner caveman.” With food and dieting, for example, small changes like reducing one pack of sugar or switch cream in your coffee to low-fat milk can make a big difference in the long run.
7. Spend a Month Thinking About Your Habit Before Taking Action
You might be itching to get rid of that habit right now, but as mentioned above, it takes time. Before you start trying to change a habit, consider thinking about it thoroughly for a month first, listing every reason you want to stop, recording every time you catch yourself doing it, and so on. You could be better prepared to conquer the habit after this preparation.
6. Remind Your Future Self About Avoiding Bad Habits
Even with the best intentions, we fall into bad habits when our willpower fades. You might promise only to have two drinks when going out with friends, for example, but forget that promise completely as soon as you step into the bar. Try setting up reminders in your calendar for yourself for your weakest moments. Future, less hungover self will thank you.
5. Change Your Environment
Over time, if you do the same behaviors in the same place, your surroundings can become a trigger —sometimes very subtle to notice. If you go on smoke breaks in your office’s parking lot, the parking lot itself can become a cue to smoke. Switch up your surrounds in even the smallest way. The 20-Second Rule can help too: Make bad habits take 20 seconds longer to start. For example, move junk food to the back of the pantry.
4. Coach Yourself Out of Bad Habits
Lifehacker alum Adam Dachis used a webcam to break his bad habits, recording why he wanted to break them every day and effectively coaching himself to stop nail biting and doing other bad habits. It might seem a little strange at first, but it could work for you too.
3. Do a Review When You Have a Bad Habit Relapse
Chances are you’re going to have bad days. Setbacks are normal and we should expect them. Have a plan to get back on track and use the relapse as a way to understand what happened and how you can avoid it next time.
2. Create an If-Then Plan
Habits are loops that we repeat automatically. A cue triggers our routine, we get the reward from it, and then repeat. An If-Then plan can help you disrupt this cue-routine-reward system and replace bad habits with good ones. Just remember to keep your plan as simple as possible. This flowchart can help you reboot your habit and create the If-Then plan.
1. Train Yourself to Think Differently About Your Bad Habits
Even if we hate a habit we’re doing, like smoking or biting our nails, we tend to continue doing them because they provide us with some sort of satisfaction or psychological reward. Catch yourself thinking any positive thoughts or feelings about your bad habits and reframe them to remind you of the negative aspects. In other words, in this case it’s good to think like a hater.