Tips on Breaking Bad Habits

by Bamboo Forest

Breaking bad habits is a present moment activity.  At any second of the day you can create new patterns, which replace old ones that once held you hostage.

We are people of habits. It’s in our makeup. There’s no way to alter this reality. But there are many ways to make this work in your favor.

The following are common habits you may want to break:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Going to bed late
  • Smoking

If you have an unhealthy diet, then you must begin eating healthy. If you go to bed late, then you must begin going to bed early. If you smoke, then you must begin to stop smoking.

The simplicity is breath taking.

Dr. William J. Knaus writes regarding procrastination, which is one of many bad habits:

“Whatever our procrastination history, whatever the cause of procrastination, the ultimate solution remains the same. You overcome procrastination by what you do. You don’t necessarily have to feel motivated. You can focus your mind on the problem and order your muscles into action to get it done.” [Bold emphasis mine]

This post doesn’t delve deeply into specific strategies to overcome bad habits. While I’m a huge proponent of strategy, I also think there’s tremendous value in focusing exclusively on what must be done to break a habit. And in fact, one of the best strategies is increasing your awareness. Hopefully this post will do just that.

When you’re tempted to engage in an undesirable habit, yet choose not to, you strengthen the desired habit.  Do this consistently enough and over a long enough period and you’re guaranteed to alter your brain chemistry. This will make living congruently with your rules almost automatic. Granted, it can take a long time. But so what?

Conversely, every time you’re tempted to act in an undesirable way, realize that doing so strengthens that undesirable habit. This awareness alone can help motivate you to resist indulging in the undesirable habit. It’s a simple truth, but one you should be permanently mindful of.

Creating new habits is physical.  As you partake in new behaviors, your brain physically changes. Done long enough, your brain changes in very noticeable and permanent ways. Of course you can always revert back to bad habits. But once a new habit develops, maintaining it is far easier than the process of breaking a bad habit. Great sacrifices produce far greater rewards than the sacrifices themselves.

When we partake in a behavior we create new neural connections strengthening that behavior. The objective, then, is to hard wire our brain in ways that create our dream lives.

Anthony Robbins writes:

“If you’ll just stop indulging in a particular behavior or emotion long enough, if you just interrupt your pattern of using the old pathway for a long enough period of time, the neural connection will weaken and atrophy. Thus the disempowering emotional pattern or behavior disappears with it.”

Researching for this post I discovered an interesting strategy to break bad habits that you may not be aware of.

Rather than focusing on stopping a bad habit, channel your energy to creating a new habit that naturally directs you away from the bad habit. The theory is that by focusing on what you don’t want to do, on some level you’re energizing it. And by focusing on developing a new habit, you’re leaving the bad habit behind without feeding it energy.

So, for example, instead of focusing on not smoking, focus on becoming physically fit. Start practicing martial arts or yoga. If it’s your intent to become physically fit, a natural byproduct will be to stop smoking.

I like this approach but also believe one still needs to maintain mindfulness of what they mustn’t do when overcoming a bad habit. In that case, it’s ideal to be acutely aware of what you mustn’t do while also directing your energy into developing a new habit that naturally drives you away from the old one.

At any moment you can decide to break a bad habit and follow through until that habit no longer has the pull it once did.

Exercise your freedom.

Bamboo Forest is a professional Email Life Coach and the founder of Tick Tock Timer.

Photo by kevin.wailes

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

beth vendryes williams May 28, 2010 at 9:49 am

This post came at just the right time for me. I have a lot of good habits…just a couple of bad ones that keep on hanging in there.. I was starting to accept these as unavoidable. Now I have renewed hope in transforming them as I glide on through toward my goals. I ‘ll keep in touch. I liked your post on Write To Done as well. Oh yes, I am in the A-list Bloggers as well!


Bamboo Forest May 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm

@ Beth: Glad you found this post helpful. And thank you for the nice words about my guest post. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


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