Techniques to Break Negative Habits
Habits often feel hard to break, and negative habits can cause an immense amount of suffering. Negative habits can range anywhere from biting your nails to picking up addictions to alcohol or drugs, to emotional habits such as people pleasing. No matter what your negative habit is, it’s possible to break.
It may seem overwhelming to break unhealthy patterns of behaviour, but by implementing some of the following techniques, you can begin the process of getting rid of your negative habits.
1. Identify the Triggers
The first step in breaking a negative habit is to identify what triggers it. You can ask yourself questions such as, ‘What happened just before I took part in the habit?’ or ‘What feelings does it bring up in me?’ It could be a particular situation, person, emotion or thought, so it’s important to get to the root cause.
Once you have identified the triggers, take the time to acknowledge and accept them without judgement, guilt or blame. This is a crucial step towards letting the habit go and bringing awareness to the process.
2. Redirect Yourself Towards Something Positive
The next step is to redirect yourself towards something positive. This can be anything from going for a walk, reading a book, meditating, writing in a journal, listening to soothing music, or getting some much needed rest. Any activity that helps you to relax and de-stress will be beneficial. This will replace the negative behaviour with a positive one, which leads to personal growth and development.
For some people, it can also be helpful to take part in activities that increase their self-esteem, such as volunteering for charity or talking to a therapist or coach about their feelings. Sometimes taking some time for yourself can make all the difference.
Visualization is another powerful technique for breaking a negative habit. You can close your eyes and imagine a positive version of the habit. Picture yourself in the situation that usually causes the negative behaviour, but this time with the desired outcome. Visualize yourself having the strength to make this happen and believe that you can really do it. Letting go of the negativity and filling yourself with motivation and positivity can be a powerful tool for lasting change.
4. Track Your Progress
Breaking a negative habit is often a process, so it’s important to track your progress over time. Documenting your daily activities can help to build perspective and self-awareness so you can identify your progress and success.
If it’s hard to stay on track, make yourself accountable to someone else such as a friend, family member or therapist. This can help to stay motivated and encouraged on your journey.
5. Treat Yourself
Breaking a negative habit is hard work, so it’s important to treat yourself for all your efforts. Plan something fun for when you’re feeling discouraged and reward yourself with something special every time you make progress. This can be as small as buying yourself a bar of chocolate or as big as taking a well-deserved holiday.
6. Take Minor Steps
Breaking a negative habit can feel overwhelming, so it’s best to approach the process one step at a time. Start with the smallest step and work your way up, so you don’t feel like you’re taking on too much at once.
If your negative habit is something such as biting your nails, start by gradually reducing the number of times you do it each day. If it’s an addiction to drugs or alcohol, start by decreasing the amount you use each time. Taking small steps can help you stay on track and reach your larger goal.
7. Challenge The Negative Thoughts
We often find ourselves in difficult situations because of our own negative thinking. Challenging these negative thoughts can be helpful when attempting to break a negative habit.
When you find yourself feeling discouraged or unmotivated, ask yourself if there is any evidence to back up the thought. This will help to build perspective and encourage optimism.
8. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a great way to become more aware of your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By paying attention to the present moment and becoming aware of yourself and the environment around you, you can start to become more mindful of your actions.
If a negative habit is triggered, take a moment to notice where it originated from, what the feeling is associated with it, and why you’ve chosen to take this action. This will help you gain insight into yourself and make different choices in the future.
9. Get Support
Breaking any habit can be difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone. Seek out the help and support of people who understand and want to help. This could be family, friends, a therapist or a support group.
The people around you can provide a listening ear, accountability and encouragement. They can also help to provide helpful advice and connect you with the resources you need in order to break the habit and move forward.
10. Take Care of Yourself
It’s important to take care of yourself when attempting to break a negative habit. This means eating healthy and nutritious foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and scheduling regular breaks. Doing things that help you to destress, such as taking a relaxing bath or engaging in creative activities, will help to channel the emotions associated with breaking a negative habit.
Breaking a negative habit can take time and effort, but the positive rewards are worth it. By implementing the above techniques, you can start the process of getting rid of your negative habits. It can help to remember that if it’s taking a bit of time to change, that’s okay; healing takes time, but it’s possible. Be patient with yourself and use all the resources available to you to make it happen.