4 Ways to Break Bad Habits (and Make Healthy Ones Stick)


If the whole “66 days” rule to break bad habits is starting to feel daunting, here are some tips to keep you on track.

Confession: I’ve been trying to break the same bad habits for over two years now. While we all work hard to make our healthy habits stick, there are always a few straggling bad habits that become our… kryptonite. Sure, I could feel totally pathetic about my epic failure in this department, or I could feel proud about the fact that I’m still sticking it out after all this time – so natch, I’m choosing the latter. And you should too.

Here are 4 tricks to hide up your sleeve the next time your bad habits are about to break you instead:

1. Shrink it

If your goal isn’t being met in its current form, then make it smaller. Let’s say your caffeine habit is getting out of hand, and your current goal is to cut your intake in half… but you ultimately end up caving in the end to meet your work deadlines. Make your goal smaller, such as cutting back by one cup. Once your body’s adjusted, remove another cup, and another until you’re back to enjoying coffee because it’s awesome, not because you “need” it.

2. Bait and switch

Anytime you feel the urge to follow through with your bad habits – for example, if you suddenly feel compelled to bite your nails – choose a habit you’re going to replace it with to throw yourself a bone. More than that, make it a habit that turns you off your current one. For example, put on lip gloss (the goopier the better!). I mean, who wants lip gloss all over their hands, amiright?

The one habit I have managed to break is my sugar addiction – junk food and I go way back. Now, every time I have a craving that’s about to send me to the corner store, I brush my teeth. Since everything tastes disgusting after you’ve brushed your teeth, by the time the minty taste wears off, so has my craving. Bonus: My teeth are so clean they practically glow in the dark.

3. Build on your good habits

Can the bad habits you want to break be “linked” to healthy habits you’ve already established? Your established healthy habit will then become a trigger to remind you of the next healthy habit you want to put in place. Let’s say you cheat in the flossing department: Use brushing your teeth before bed, an established healthy habit, as your trigger to floss.

4. Visualize, don’t fantasize

When you visualize your goal, you picture the steps involved in accomplishing it. For example, if you want to learn how to play the guitar, you’d visualize learning notes with a teacher or following along to a DVD (wait, do they still make those?). When you fantasize, you skip thinking about the pesky learning process and head straight to picturing yourself nailing the “Crazy On You” solo. While fantasizing is fun, it can also be counterproductive, making you easily frustrated during the learning curve. Visualizing, on the other hand, keeps you aware of the hard work involved, and also decreases your anxiety about it. (Cha-ching!)

What process do you go through to break bad habits?

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Image: Valentin Ottone

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).