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How to Break a Habit

Habits die hard. But that doesn't mean they can't.

(This is an opinion piece and I am not an expert, psychologist or counsellor. Use this blog for entertainment purposes and take advice that helps, but take it with a grain of salt. Consider attending counselling or therapy to seriously consider breaking a bad habit, especially if it is interfering with your (or others) mental and/or physical health.

The majority of our actions circulate around patterns, routine, and actions. Sometimes habits are good, as a for instance, eating breakfast everyday is a positive and healthy habit. Texting a loved one or calling your parents on Sunday’s is a healthy habit. But some habits need to be broken. Habits that interfere with your happiness or productivity that you want to break OR even habits that you wish to establish that time.

So how can we do it? Well the first step is to…

1. RECOGNIZE THAT IT IS A HABIT

Name it as a habit and don’t flip flop. Acknowledge that this is a habit you want to break. And recognize that it make take a couple shots for you to get it right, but as long as you work towards improving you will eventually get it.

2. WHAT EXACTLY IS THE HABIT?

So what exactly is the habit? Name it exactly. Perhaps your habit is being passive-aggressive towards a specific person in a specific environment. Maybe you have gotten into a habit or routine of being passive-aggressive towards a colleague on your lunch break. So, for starters, it’s not enough to simply name the habit. Yes, naming the habit is a great step, but we also have to take the time to understand the habit.

Saying, “I want to stop being passive-aggressive,” is a little generic. This makes tackling the habit a little more difficult. Understanding what triggers the habit can help. To understand the triggers it is best to describe the situation word for word.

In this scenario, it would be best to outline the situation by writing it down.

E.g. When my alarm on my phone goes off at 12:30 pm, I go to the cafeteria and I meet Suzan who is usually at the coffee machine making herself a decaf. Usually, I go to grab my dish and throw it in the microwave and chat with Suzan while my food is heating up. When I see her, she usually starts to boasts about the things happening in her life, but while normally I wouldn’t mind listening, when I am hungry I feel a little irritated and I tend to deflect her innocent comments with sarcasm and passive-aggression. She then gets hurt and smiles awkwardly at me and it makes me feel guilty, so I offer to do her a small favour to make up for it, like wash her plate or pay her a compliment.

3. REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU WANT TO BREAK THE HABIT

Reminding yourself why you want to break the habit can make the process easier. If your desire to break the habit it stronger than your desire to fall back into it, then you have a good shot at overcoming the habit. But in the moment, you might forget why you want to break the habit.

In this situation, we know that by being passive-aggressive towards Susan, we would be hurting her feelings. So it might be beneficial for us to write a reminder to ourselves to read to remind us why we want to break the bad habit.

4. COME UP WITH A PLAN / NEW HABIT

What would you prefer to do in the place of your bad habit? Taking a moment to remember that and then writing that new plan down on that same sticky note mentioned previously would help the situation.

Perhaps we can start by writing on a sticky note and pining it near our workspace (in a space Suzan will not be able to see it, but in a place we can be reminded of it).

E.g.

“I am writing on this sticky note to remind myself that I want to break my habit because it hurts Suzan’s feelings and Suzan is my friend and someone I care about. I will break my habit by leaving to start my lunch break 5 minutes earlier than usual and, I will eat a banana as I am heating up my food so I do not feel irritated due to my hunger.”

The person may then read this sticky note before the lunch break.

5. GET TO THE ROUTE OF IT

Why did the habit develop in the first place? What caused you to start acting passive-aggressive towards Suzan?

In this scenario, maybe the person has been feeling insecure about themselves and their lives. Suzan always posts about how amazing her life is on social media but this person feels insecure about their own life. Usually when this person is in a good mood they can tolerate Suzan’s good news but when the person is hungry or irritated it can be more difficult. SO, we need to get to the route of the problem.

This person needs to get to a place where they are genuinely happy in their own lives, then being happy for Suzan will come much easier and more naturally. This might take some time and a lot of effort but acknowledging this will help move the proves along.

Habits die hard but they can be broken. Just do your best, you’re allowed to make mistakes along the way, but don’t give up. Eventually you’ll meet your end result.

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