Bad habits come in every shape, size and form. Smoking cigarettes, excessive online shopping, mindless scrolling, there’s no shortage of bad habits we can easily integrate if we so choose.

The dictionary defines a bad habit as “a patterned behavior regarded as detrimental to one’s physical or mental health, which is often linked to a lack of self-control.”

Bad habits pull you out of the present. They provide something your mind deems “pleasurable” in the moment. Yet often, they come at the cost of goals, health, financial wellbeing, and connection to ourselves and the world at large.

Before getting started on how to break bad habits, let’s touch on the reason many people end up letting their bad habits prevail in the first place.

All or Nothing Approach

When it comes to letting go of a bad habit, many people tend to burst out of the starting gate, fully intending to ditch their bad habit once and for all. They do well for a week or two and then they skip the gym, or purchase a pack of cigarettes. With this simple act, all inertia is lost. The bad habit snuggles back into the space it used to occupy, and the individual is left feeling like a total failure believing they lack any willpower, and they stop trying.

Here’s what you need to remember: It is going to be hard, and that’s okay. You’ll get through it. It gets easier with time. If you skip a day – if the habit sneaks back in – call it out, and try again the next day.

Give yourself some grace while also honoring your commitment to yourself, and remember each day is a chance to start again.

Be curious about the circumstance, emotion, whatever led you back to your bad habit. This info is valuable, and will help you on your journey.

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of breaking bad habits.

Have a Plan

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, ‘hope is not a strategy,’ and it’s true. White-knuckling your way out of a bad habit is exhausting and unsustainable.

No matter what your habit is, you should have a plan. If you’d like to go to the gym more, be specific about when you’re going. Carve out time in your schedule, and remember that often the hardest part is starting. In this case, lacing up your Nikes and heading to the gym is the hardest part.

If you want to eat healthier meals, plan them out in advance and be prepared.

If you want to stop spending money furiously, hide your cards. Give yourself a weekly budget, and carry cash.

If you want to quit smoking or some other vice, have a plan on how you’ll handle cravings when they arise. Know your triggers. People are creatures of habit and tend to indulge in vices in habitual patterned ways. If you can, change your environment for the first few days. Visit a friend over the weekend, or go camping – sans cigarettes.

A change in environment and routine can kickstart the change in behavior since it doesn’t come with all the usual associations. 

Make it Visual

Take a piece of paper and a sharpie. Draw out a calendar of the next three months, and hang it on your fridge, or somewhere else you’ll see it a few times a day. For each day you don’t indulge in the bad habit, cross that day off, or mark it with a star.

Making it visual helps keep us accountable. Our goal is right there in front of us, and seeing it regularly helps keep it in the forefront of our mind. 

This Too Shall Pass

Understand that cravings usually last 3 – 5 minutes. Practice deep breathing, do jumping jacks, take a cold shower, call a friend… have a plan on how you’ll get through those tricky moments. But above all, know that this too shall pass. 

When you’re sweating it out at the gym, know that the discomfort you feel is temporary. You’ll never regret getting stronger and healthier. Breathe through it, and enjoy how incredible it feels when you’re done.

Reward Yourself

Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, remember that. No matter what you do, there will be painful moments, moments where you want to quit, moments where you wonder if the struggle is worth it. Rewarding yourself for a positive streak can make it feel more worthwhile. Celebrating accomplishments by treating yourself every once in a while can be a great incentive to keep going.

Understand WHY

One of the reasons breaking bad habits is such a challenge is because many are born of subconscious desire. It is estimated that 95% of human decisions occur unconsciously. 

Many people are swept up in bad habits and have a hard time breaking them because they don’t understand why these habits hold such a power over them, and that makes it harder to let go of them.

Therapy is the best way to uncover the why behind destructive behaviors. At the Relationship Therapy Center, we believe the foundation of any relationship begins with the relationship to self. We help people break bad habits and destructive patterns by bringing them closer to themselves. Examining core wounds and other feelings that drive these behaviors. Once the source of these patterns are out in the open, it’s easier to disarm them.

Our goal is to empower our patients so they can make healthier choices in the future. Choices that are closer aligned to who they truly are. If this is something you could benefit from, give us a call.

Therapy in Roseville, CA, Fair Oaks, CA, or Online in California:

If you are ready to change your life for the better, we can help. To begin therapy at our Sacramento area locations or online, follow these steps:

Services Offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:

Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.