How To Replace Bad Habits: 9 Steps To Bounce Back In Life

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Do you find yourself doing what you’re not supposed to be doing? You want to do your work but just one play from your favorite video game won’t hurt.

Just one mukbang video. One social media to scroll, one episode, one cigarette. Just one.

There are more bad habits we do that we don’t really need to be doing.

It’s frustrating. One little habit that doesn’t help us will be followed by another one and another that leads to an overall unproductive system.

Luckily, you are not alone. I’ve also been there and to be honest it’s quite funny.

Last week, I downloaded my favorite MOBA game again and played with my friends. I did have fun but I also wasted time. A lot of it.

Although I didn’t feel too bad for myself. I said it was okay, it already happened. What I can do now is to reevaluate my values and remind myself what identity I would want to have.

If you find yourself going back to your bad habits or are struggling to change them, may the things you read here help you in overcoming that challenge.

Why do we have bad habits?

The answer is two things that people always encounter: Stress and Boredom.

We say we are going to treat ourselves by doing [insert bad habit here] because we deserve it after feeling stressful or because we’re bored. From checking your social media or your emails to buying drinks with your friends can be a response to stress and boredom.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Recognizing your bad habits and why you do it is crucial in overcoming these habits and replacing it with good ones.

It can be hard at first because we believe that it’s okay to do one bad thing sometimes. However, we can teach ourselves new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom. This eventually will lead to replacing bad and ugly habits to good and healthy behaviors.

We replace a bad habit instead of eliminating it.

Having habits – good or bad – comes from our underlying needs as human beings. We do these habits in response to what’s happening around us.

These habits may provide a benefit to you, either just a short-term or in the long run. Most humans choose the first one because people love instant gratifications.

Moreover, eliminating a bad habit can be problematic as well. Since we do a bad habit in response to stress or boredom, completely eliminating it will be deleterious to our health.

A good example and my favorite one is when a person gets bored, he instantly checks his Facebook or Reddit account for memes. It’s not that bad if you think of it like that. But if it disturbs your workflow, then it would be.

If he completely eliminated checking his accounts, there would be no other thing he’ll do in response to his boredom. The solution to this is to recognize that bad habit and replace it with a good one that provides a similar benefit.

Continuing with the previous example, if he replaced checking his social media accounts with doing 10 push-ups then start reading a book that gives value to his life. Then it would not only let him be smarter but he’d also get a simple body workout.

Can you think of other ways to replace some bad habits?

How to Replace Bad Habits

First you need to recognize it then you need to break it. Here are simple steps to follow for breaking your bad habits and for you to think about how you’d want to be replacing them.

1. Choose the right thing to do.

Thinking of the right thing to do and choosing it instead of your old bad habit is the first step in breaking it. What are you going to do when Instagram is calling you to procrastinate? (Example: journal about your thoughts at the moment) What are you going to do when you get the urge to drink alcohol? (Example: breathe deeply for 10 minutes) Whatever you are experiencing, you need to plan what you will do instead of your bad habit.

2. Eliminate the triggers for your bad habits.

You may be easily doing bad habits because it is what your environment tells you to do. It causes less friction so you do it whenever you think of it. Triggers are things you have around you that leads to you doing the habit.

If you watch Netflix whenever you are at home, then cancel your subscription. If the first thing you do in the morning is to check your phone, then place it far from you before going to sleep. Make it easier for you to break bad habits by avoiding what causes them.

3. Have an accountability partner.

Doing it all by yourself can be hard sometimes and you may need to have someone there to guide you. Telling your friend that you are breaking a bad habit is making him accountable for what you are doing.

A powerful motivator is when you know that someone else expects you to be a better person. It would be even greater if your friend also wants to break that habit so that both of you can be accountable for each other.

4. Join a community of like-minded people.

This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate your friends completely in your life because they aren’t what you want to be surrounded by. But finding new ones and surrounding yourself with those who live the way you want to live is powerful.

5. Envision your successful self.

See yourself working out or not buying that expensive thing you won’t use or waking up early. Whatever bad habit that is you are breaking, envision yourself becoming better, smiling, and enjoying your success. See yourself with your new identity.

6. You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you.

I would like to think of the new year’s resolution as a beginning to a “new me” just like everybody else thought. But it didn’t really happen. Because one doesn’t have to be an entirely new person to break bad habits. We already have it in us, we just have to return to our old selves. We don’t need to quit drinking, we just need to return to being a non-alcoholic. We have already lived without this bad habit which means we can do it again.

7. Use the power of “but” in overcoming negative self-talk.

It’s too easy for us to judge ourselves for not choosing better actions. We tend to belittle ourselves when we let time slip away or make a mistake.

Whenever that happens, continue the sentence with “but…”

  • I’m stupid and nobody will listen to me, but I’m working to develop a valuable skill.”
  • “I get distracted too easily, but I’m looking for other ways to keep my focus.”
  • “I always fail, but I’m going to change my system and work on new methods.”
8. Plan for failure.

Have you ever believed in the saying ‘fail your way to success‘? It’s fine to fail as we do slip up every now and then.

Rather than beating yourself up because of a mistake, plan for it. Paraphrasing what James Clear had said, all of us get off track. Top performers get back on track quickly and that what’s separates them from everyone else.

9. Follow-through.

Always and always do what other people don’t: follow-through. After taking notes from this article, your next step is to actually plan for it and start doing it. Start crushing your bad habits and reevaluating your values that will contribute to your desired identity.

Believe that you can so that you will.

Be aware of your bad habits

In changing bad habits, first you must be aware of what habits you have.

This is going to be hard as you have to review how you spend your time from day-to-day. You must know the triggers of these habits.

Awareness will show you how to actually make change.

  • When does your habit actually happen?
  • How many times do you do it each day?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • What triggers the behavior and causes it to start?

By tracking these issues it will help you be aware of the behavior and on deciding how to stop and replace habits you want to change.

What I did is I list down everything I do in a day (from waking up to sleeping late at night). Then I reviewed each of them. I decided what habits I would want to keep and those habits I want gone. From there, I thought of alternatives for bad habits.

After having the revised list of my newly formed habits, I followed-through. I have experimented with my everyday habits and continued to input these good habits as replacements to what I always do.

The result? A more meaningful and happy life.

Breaking bad habits does take time and a whole lot of effort, but it takes perseverance most of all. I did not form good habits and break the bad ones overnight. For weeks, I have dealt with waking up early even if I didn’t like it. But I surely received benefits from it in all aspects.

One last thing before you go

It’s day 1 after deleting my favorite MOBA game on my phone. I know this doesn’t really help in the identity I wanted to have and there was a reason why I had gone all 2 months without it.

You may have some bad habits in mind that you wish to break. I know you can overcome them as well. It just takes a lot of courage to change but it doesn’t mean you can’t.

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Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Maeve


Footnotes

  • Pro tips by James Clear of Atomic Habits (affiliate link). Got the inspiration from him and his book is one of my favorites!
  • Clear got the original idea from Leo Babauta and Scott Young about stress and boredom driving bad habits and about using “but” to overcome negative self-talk, respectively.

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