How to Break a Bad Habit in 3 Steps
The key is replacing your bad habit with a healthier one.
You're a nail biter. Spend too much time on the couch watching TV. A chip fiend and chronic late-night snacker. But here's some good news if you have a weakness you just can't seem to shake: Research is shedding light on the most effective ways to break a habit for good. Here, three simple tactics to help you quit once and for all.
Tune in to the urge
One study of smokers found that mindfulness training was twice as effective at helping people quit as a more standard, behavior-based cessation program. The researchers believe mindfulness can work for any type of pattern you're trying to fix. Plugging into the feelings associated with a craving helps you become less in thrall to it, so you can learn to let it go.
Change your environment
Your surroundings can encourage a bad habit or facilitate a good one. Practical pointers: To stave off autopilot snacking on sweets, for example, swap the cookie jar with a fruit bowl. Or, if you need to stop checking your phone at red lights, move it from the cup holder to your zipped handbag.
Replace that habit with a healthier one
Bad habits tend to have triggers (like stress) that prompt you to engage in them. So come up with a plan ahead of time for how you will respond to those cues: If you, say, chew your nails when you get frazzled at work, start practicing deep breathing each time you feel overwhelmed.