How to Break a Bad Habit

By Dr. Jack Singer

How to Break Bad Habits by Dr. Jack SingerDo you have habits that hold you back from experiencing the successful life you deserve? Your habit may be as small as biting your nails or buying expensive lattes every day. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may wish to break free of smoking, extreme anger, excessive eating, or other detrimental habits.

There is hope. You can rid yourself of the habits that hold you back. Use the tips below to help you put an end to that pesky practice once and for all:

1. Determine why you should stop. Think about how your habit hurts you and others. Does it harm your health? Diminish your appearance? Put a dent in your pocketbook? Does it make you act irrationally? Does it hurt your loved ones? Create a list of benefits that you’ll experience when you put an end to this habit once and for all.

  • If you lack a compelling reason to stop, chances are you’ll be less willing to work towards quitting. Find a reason to halt the progression of your habit and hammer that thought into your mind each time you feel compelled to continue with it. As with any though, the instant you think it and become aware of it, in that same amount of time you can kick that thought to the curb and replace it with something healthier. It is really a matter of your own self awareness.

2. Dangle a carrot. Naturally, when there is a direct reward at the end of your pursuit, you’re more inclined to give a wholehearted effort. Indulge in a trip to the spa, a new pair of jeans or a trip to your favorite restaurant each time you reach a large milestone.

  • Ensure that your reward is irrelevant to your habit. If you’re trying to quit smoking, it’s detrimental to reward yourself with a cigarette at the end of each week for “being good.” Instead, reward yourself with an activity that your smoking may have prevented you from doing. Now that you are feeling better you probably feel more like moving around, right? Go for a hike with your children, or take up some other activity that you have given up over time.
  • Save the biggest rewards for last. What do you want the most? What’s something you’ve wished you could purchase or experience for a long time? Spend the time you would normally spend indulging in your habit to plan your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
  • The reward should be in line with the complexity of your task. Rewarding yourself with a cruise to the Bahamas because you’ve stopped biting your nails is a bit of a stretch. However, rewarding yourself with manicure / pedicure is more fitting.

3. Read success stories. Purchase a book or browse the web to read success stories of those that have previously been in your shoes and conquered the same habit. Head on over to and download great books to listen to while you are working on your computer or that you can listen to on your iPod. Some suggestions?  The Greatness Guide by Robin Sharma. Unlimited Power: the New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins. Anything and everything by Ken Blanchard. There are truly unlimited resources for you out there. Seeing social proof that others have been able to achieve the task you’re facing makes the pursuit seem more manageable.

4. Small steps. Focus on only one small step each week to ensure long lasting results. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, eliminate sweets and sugary sodas from your diet for the first week. The next week eliminate other carbohydrates, like white bread, in addition to the sweets.

  • Slow and steady really does win the race. Crash diets don’t work, and quitting anything cold often leads to compensatory behavior. In turn, this will halt your progress and you’ll have to start at step one all over again. Again, there are MANY resources for you. Find the one or ones that attract you the most and dive right in.
  • Create measurable goals. If you’re trying to minimize your spending, determine the average amount you spend each week in unnecessary purchases. Then set a goal to reduce that amount by 10% for the first week.

Habits provide a level of comfort that everything in your world is okay. They give you a feeling of control over your circumstances. However, a dependency on a routine that has negative consequences to your physical and mental health can be replaced by choices that fuel your success.

Remember that you are in charge of your mind, body, and soul. Embark on the road to kicking your bad habit(s) today and prove to yourself just how strong you can be!

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer

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