10 tips to break a habit

Habits can be both good and bad. In terms of those that are bad, many of us know there are things we do on a routine basis (often with very little thought involved), that we would like to change. There is now a substantial body of research and analysis on the psychology behind habitual behaviour and therefore more understanding about what it takes to break a habit.

In his book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says there are three important areas to understand when breaking the habit loop. He concentrates on:

A) the reasons behind the behaviour

B) the routine involved in the behaviour

C) the reward that comes from the behaviour

We know that emotions drive behaviour and these are often connected to the reason we indulge in the habit in the first place. There is also more understanding about the role of the brain in breaking habitual behaviour. I found Annie Grace’s book This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life, inspirational.  Once you understand the power of the brain, you see that breaking a habit is much less to do with willpower and much more to do with changing your mindset.

10 tips you can use to break a habit

1.    Replace the habitual behaviour with something else (this needs to be equally appealing)

2.    Be mindful. So notice what you are doing/thinking, stop and reassess

3.    Be clear about your intention to change, analyse why and how this fits with your own values

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4.    Tackle one habit at a time, so don’t try and give up alcohol, smoking, sugar and going to bed late in one go - you are likely to fail!

5.    Understand your triggers and try and avoid these (at least for the first 90 days). For example, is it the time of day or is it to do with an activity you are doing? (For example, smoking will often accompany a drink)

6.    Find a mantra that you like and is applicable and use that as many times a day as you need to

7.    Tell people ‘I have stopped x because of y’, this helps make you accountable. Getting a friend to quit the same thing at the same time is also a helpful tactic

8.    Act as if you have already succeeded in breaking this habit, Jen Sincero calls this ‘acting as if’.

9.    Reward yourself regularly, this might be buying yourself something or doing something you really like

10. Celebrate success and again tell people, you have done something hard and you are succeeding!

There is not much consensus on how long it takes to form a new habit, 40 days is often talked about. I like the saying it ‘takes 21 days to create a new habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle.’

Also check out https://www.developgoodhabits.com full of great advice and useful references. Good luck!