Scientifically Proven Ways to Break Habits

Getting rid of bad habits is a very popular method of self-improvement. This makes a lot of sense. Most bad habits are time-consuming and some of them can have a serious impact on your health.

You might also feel embarrassed by your habits. Some of them are associated with childishness or with a bad work ethic. They can reflect on you negatively.

However, your bad habits don’t have to run your life. It may take a considerable amount of work, but you can get rid of them all. When you do, you’ll find that you can spend a lot more time doing what you truly love.

Here are a few important steps toward breaking free of your habits.

  1. Understand the Science Behind Your Habits

There are two reasons why habits are hard to shake off.

The first is that habits are easy. They do not require any thought.

After all, your good and bad habits shape a significant part of your life. Having a routine makes it much easier to get through the day and focus on the important things. So when destructive or useless behaviors become a part of your routine, you will continue to repeat them without thinking about it.

The second reason has to do with dopamine [1].

Every bad habit is enjoyable at first. When you experience pleasure, your brain releases some dopamine. This urges you to repeat the action over and over again.

But what happens when you try to leave your bad habit behind? Dopamine will give you cravings. This happens even if the action no longer brings you joy.

Dopamine has a huge role in the science of drug addiction. But it will influence you even if your bad habit has nothing to do with mood-altering substances.

  1. Strengthen Your Willpower

The best way to resist temptation is to give your willpower a workout.

In the beginning, your willpower will waver. This is natural, but there are a few things you can do to keep from returning to your habits.

[Read more: How to build self discipline]

  • Physically Remove Temptations

Would Adam and Eve have reached for the apple if it was less conveniently placed?

Experts say that availability undermines your willpower [2]. It makes sense, right? It’s much easier to succumb to temptation if it’s convenient for you to do so.

So make it as hard as possible to indulge in your bad habit. Create logistic obstacles for yourself. By the time you remove the obstacles, your craving might pass.

  • Get Some Help If You Need It

Getting rid of bad habits is a private journey but you can always get a few spectators to cheer you on.

Not everyone likes making their resolution public. However, some people do find it helpful to talk about it with loved ones. It can be easier to hold yourself accountable when other people know what’s going on.

Phone apps are another good approach. Habit trackers are easy to find and you can get some of them for free. They can help you keep track of your progress and feel more accomplished as well.

  • Give Yourself Pep Talks

Positive reinforcement is a significant part of jettisoning bad habits out of your life.

This means that you should appreciate your progress. Furthermore, it can help a great deal to have a motto you can repeat to yourself. This will give you a way to distract yourself when the cravings hit.

  • Be Specific

Even the biggest changes start small.

You are sure to run out of willpower if you try to enforce a general rule such as “I want to be healthier”. While that may be your end goal, it is too vague to be any help.

Instead, you should set very specific goals. Taking it gradually might be a good idea as well, depending on what kind of bad habit you want to escape. Going cold-turkey isn’t always the best approach.

So make a plan and stick to it. Reaching milestones will make you feel accomplished. This will give your willpower a substantial boost.

  • Avoid Bargaining

Do not bargain with yourself. Making deals may seem like a good idea at a time. You may even follow through with the promise you made to yourself, at least at first.

But once your willpower crumbles, things will change. You will find it a lot more difficult to resist temptation the second time around. Furthermore, you may start rationalizing your bad decisions in order to excuse them.

If you feel like you need a break from resisting temptation, schedule it in advance. That way, you won’t have to deal with any feelings of shame later. However, in most cases, it’s usually better to power through without any breaks.

Learn how to become a morning person

  1. Always Have a Plan B

Professionals say [3] that going for alternative activities can help you break a bad habit.

You’re likelier to return to your bad habits when you’re bored or stressed. Some social situations might tempt you as well. Thus, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan prepared.

Quitting can feel demoralizing. I can be easier to just replace your bad habit with something that’s good for you. So if you know you’ll be in a situation when your bad habit will feel tempting, plan a distraction in advance.

What’s a good distraction? Always go for something that is beneficial to your health. If your bad habit used to give you a thrill, exercise can be a good way to achieve the same sensation.

  1. Deal with the Big Things As Well

Being unhappy will make it more difficult to rid yourself of your bad habit. Coping with unhappiness or a bad situation might have been why you developed your habit in the first place.

Thus, it’s important to keep things in perspective. You should do everything you can to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing. Working on your happiness is one of the most important parts of life.

Professional treatment can be a big help. Additionally, lifestyle changes can do a lot to make you happier. Once you’re doing well in other walks of life, you’ll find it much easier to find the willpower you need to break a habit.

Ways to add more structure to your day

  1. Keep It Real

Whether your bad habit is smoking, overeating, or obsessively checking your notifications, you don’t have to let it rule your life.

However, quitting a bad habit is a serious challenge. Even if you’re usually good at self-control, ingrained habits are difficult to shake off.

You absolutely need to set up realistic expectations. After all, disappointing yourself will only lead to seeking solace in the same old bad habits. Be as honest as possible about your own ability and willingness to change things.

 


Hi! We’re Team Neuro, aficionados of all things brain-related, from creativity to working out. With backgrounds in art, science, and athletics, we love delving into all the potentials of the human body.


We also created the world's first sugar-free nootropic caffeine gum that utilizes the effects of caffeine and L-theanine, made to help you optimize your mind — anywhere, anytime. Find out more here.


[1] https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2012/01/breaking-bad-habits

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201208/four-things-undermine-your-willpower

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201104/3-proven-ways-change-bad-habit

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