How to Change your Bad Habits

How to Change your Bad Habits

We all have at least a couple of bad habits. Have you been thinking about how to change your bad habits? Have you tried, but not had the success you were hoping for? Well, I’ve got a few tips to set you in the right direction. After all, the whole new year is ahead of us. It’s a great time for change!

Humans are creatures of habit.  We tend to do the same things over and over.

Bad habits often look like this:

trigger —> bad habit —> reward

Spouse yells at you—> have a drink —> decreased stress/anxiety/tension

As you can see, we have the opportunity to change this behavior chain at any point – the trigger, the reaction (or bad habit), and the reward. You can avoid your triggers (at least partially), you can change your thoughts and feelings about the trigger, you can certainly change your behavioral response by doing something different instead (such as going for a walk instead of having a drink), and you can find alternatives that create the same or a different “reward”.

Additional strategies to change your bad habits  include: How to Change your Bad Habits |

  1. Put your goals in writing or say them out loud. Both have been shown to increase our success.
  2. Make it easy to do the desired behavior (make extra salad at dinner so you have it ready to take for tomorrow’s lunch).
  3. Make it hard to do the undesirable behavior (don’t keep cigarettes in the house).
  4. Postpone doing the behavior you want to change. Instead of trying to stop doing something all together, it can work well to postpone doing it for as long as possible. This could result in smoking 10 cigarettes instead of 15.
  5.  Set rules for yourself (no eating after 8pm or bed time is 11pm).
  6. Make small, incremental changes. Remember all positive change counts. Change isn’t all or nothing.
  7. Make one change at a time. Sometimes we want to overhaul all of our bad habits at once. Trying to quit smoking and lose 10 lbs at the same time is probably a set up to fail.
  8. Get support. Support is, well supportive. It also hold us accountable. You are more likely to show up at the track or the AA meeting if your buddy is waiting there for you.
  9. Remember you are human and slip-ups will happen. Forgive yourself, learn something from your mistakes and move on.

Sharon Martin, LCSW © 2015

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.