Habits are a good thing. They enable you to perform certain tasks without applying too much thought to it and help focus on the more important things one needs to achieve.
The problem is in the 'nature' of the habit. If this habit is detrimental to you, like your health, or your money then you need to break it. You may already know this and often ask yourself, “How do I break it though?”
Here are a few scientifically proven ways to break a bad habit.
Most bad habits are a reaction to stress. Every time you pick up that cigarette or grab a bottle of alcohol, your mind is reacting to a stressful situation. The nicotine in the cigarette or the sugar in the bar of chocolate, trigger the dopamine levels in your blood and it feels rewarding.
You are more likely to do things you don't want to do when you are under stress. Try physical exercise, meditation, yoga or simply get better sleep.
Identify the trigger
Be very critical of your daily routine and identify the triggers that instigate you to react. It is more likely that you fall back to your habit because of a certain context. If you reach for a bucket of ice cream every time you sit down to watch a romantic movie, that's your trigger.
Identifying your trigger requires being honest about yourself. Ask for a friend's honest opinion if you are not sure of doing it by yourself.
Replace your habit with a good one
It is hard 'Not to do something' than to 'Do' one. Our minds are kinaesthetic and as a species we like action. Our minds associate in-action with negativity. If you feel the rush to grab a cigarette, replace that action with a short walk or chewing gum instead.
However, replacing your bad habit with a healthier one takes time and effort. Remember, new habits are behavior changes due to repetition.
Have a higher purpose
Attach the reason to break your habit with a higher purpose. Breaking the habit of gambling can help you pay for the world tour you always wanted to go.
A reward at the end is a positive reinforcement to your brain. You are more likely to work towards it.
Breaking a bad habit takes time, commitment, willpower, and effort. Do not try to do multiple things at the same time. Take one step at a time and move up.
Quit smoking, a specialised diet, working out for 2 hours a day, all of them from day one to get fit, will burn you out.
Get an accomplice
Two is a company. A companion in your journey is helpful. If you can find someone who can work with you, you are more likely to succeed. An honest companion who can you rely on and is a positive influence on you will go a long way to stay your course.
Do things differently
If you tell yourself "I will not buy that cookie on my way home", you are still telling your mind about the cookie. Try a different path home rather than walking down the cafeteria like you always do. A different way to go by your routine will certainly help you avoid reacting to known triggers.
Use negative reinforcement
Fear at times is a good thing. The brain attaches bad consequences to bad experiences and actions. By simply telling your brain enough times of an uncle who lost all his money on betting, can be a stop you doing so.
Breaking a bad habit is possible with determination and will power. Be patient and you will get there. Better still,
"Do not let your mistakes turn in to habits” - Benjamin Franklin