How to Stop Bad Habits

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Trying to stop bad habits is a big challenge for many people. They engage in their bad habits for a reason, and that reason does not just go away because the person chooses to stop his bad habits. Whether a bad habit is biting fingernails, being consistently late, or overeating--stopping bad habits is hard to do. Learn how to effectively stop bad habits.

Things You'll Need

  • Strong desire to stop bad habits
  • Patience
  • Identify the bad habits you want to stop. Often people who engage in bad habits live in denial that they even have any bad habits. People can become quite effective in fooling themselves into believing that they do not have a problem when they actually do. Until you acknowledge that you are engaging in bad habits, you will be powerless to stop bad habits.

  • Figure out why you engage in bad habits. People do not do things repeatedly unless the bad habits are working for them at some level. For example, the person who consistently overeats might be "stuffing down" pain. The person who bites her fingernails might be relieving anxiety. Understanding what you are getting out of the bad habits is the key to stopping them.

  • Choose an alternative behavior that is less "bad." If you try to use will power to stop bad habits, you are very likely to return to them. This is because your habits are meeting a need. Instead, choose an alternative behavior that can meet the same need. For example, if you overeat to "stuff down" emotional pain, try talking about your feelings instead. Write down your feelings in a journal or talk with a friend about your pain. If you bite your fingernails to relieve anxiety, try doing yoga or going for a walk to calm yourself whenever you feel the urge to bite your fingernails.

  • Engage in the alternative behavior first. Once you have chosen an alternative behavior, you need to begin building your confidence in that behavior's ability to meet your needs. Whenever you get the urge to engage in the bad habits, try the alternative method first. Give yourself fifteen minutes of using the new method before you engage in your bad habits again.

  • Allow the occasional indulgence in your old habits. If fifteen minutes of using the alternative method does not meet the need, then allow yourself to engage in your bad habits one time with no guilt. By doing this, you are reassuring yourself that your needs will be met. Then, the next time the need arises, you will be less likely to lean on the bad habit because you know that you are not depriving yourself of anything.

  • Celebrate your progress along the way. Every choice you make toward stopping bad habits is worth celebrating.Give yourself lots of positive encouragement for each step you take toward stopping bad habits.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you have a relapse, do not heap guilt on top of your other bad feelings. Appreciate that it takes time to stop bad habits, and give yourself permission to have a few relapses.
  • Be patient with your progress. .
  • A good therapist can help you work through the underlying issues that are driving your habits. If your bad habits are serious, such as substance abuse or self-injury, consider talking with a qualified therapist about your issues.
  • It is never okay to harm another person as part of your bad habits.
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