Breaking Bad Habits: Consciously Replacing a Bad Habit with a Good One for Double Success

breaking bad habits

Breaking Bad Habits

Everyone has at one point or another been interested in breaking bad habits. Some of us eat too much, some of us smoke a pack a day, others overindulge depression or anxiety until mental illness gets out of hand. All of these bad habits can end up running – and ruining – your life.

Grade school taught us that smoking causes cancer. We know that depression and anxiety can lead down a rabbit hole of mental illness. And of course, “obesity kills” is arguably in the news more than Donald Trump’s hair.

I’m not here today to talk about the fate that lies ahead if you ignore breaking your bad habits. I’m here to discuss the replacement method for replacing a bad habit with a good one for double success. But first – what is a habit?

The 3 Steps of a Habit Loop

Every habit that you have – from brushing your teeth to smoking after a meal – is subject to the 3 steps of a habit loop. This process has been described in detail by behavioral psychologists for years, and it applies to good habits and bad habits alike.

The 3 steps:

  1. Trigger
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

The trigger is the reminder that happens in your environment which initiates the habitual behavior. Routine is the behavior itself or the action that you take in response to your trigger. Reward is the benefit gained from the behavior.

Let’s use a post-meal cigarette as our example throughout this article. The satisfaction of a full belly and pushing away an empty dinner plate is the environmental trigger. You go out to your porch and smoke a cigarette, which is the routine. The reward is the rush of nicotine to your bloodstream.

Replace a Bad Habit with a New Conscious Habit

So let’s assume you have a bad habit that you would like drop. Overeating, smoking, and some mental states (anxiety, depression) are often habits just ready for the breaking. So let’s assume you’ve got one in mind – now, how do you do it?

Use the 3 step habit loop! Just because you’ve made most of your habits unconsciously does not mean that you cannot also create a habit on purpose. The 3 steps apply whether you realize you are using the tool or not.

First, Identify & Declare the Swap Out

What is the habit you are dropping? What will be its replacement habit? Spelling this out in a clear and maybe even a little ceremonious way improves its potency. Additionally, once your family and friends are aware of your efforts you now have the added success ingredient of accountability.

Habit I am Quitting: SMOKING
Habit I am Starting: JOGGING

Second, Write Out the Habit Loop for the Habit You are Dropping

Become familiar in detail with your trigger, routine, and rewards received from the habit you are dropping. The more you are consciously aware of how the behavior unfolds, the more your logical mind is participating in your behavior. The idea is to rip the bad habit out of the clutches of your subconscious and bring it into the light of the conscious mind where it quickly loses its “magic” power over us. Once it can be seen as the simple biochemical request from your body, which can be easily over ridden, you are on your way to real change.

Old Habit Loop

  1. Trigger: Finishing a meal
  2. Routine: Smoke a cigarette
  3. Reward: Nicotine rush in bloodstream

Third, Write out the Habit Loop for the New Habit

Think through what would be an easy, effortless, trigger for your new habit. A good trigger does not interfere too much with your current life and doesn’t reply on motivation as the only ingredient to success.

Some ideas for good triggers are:

  • First thing when you wake up
  • Getting in the shower
  • Leaving work
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Finishing a meal
  • Taking the dog for walk

New Habit Loop

  1. Trigger: Finishing dinner
  2. Routine: Put on running clothes & tennis shoes & go for a jog
  3. Reward: Confidence, fresh lung tissue, stress release, calm, improved mood

Last, Make the Swap Out

Set a date to make the swap out live. This is the day you will simultaneously drop the old habit and incorporate in the new one. Do it on the same day so that you achieve double success. Instead of obsessing over every trigger from your old habit and “grinning and bearing it” through each one, your new habit becomes a shining distraction of health and success.

You will be using your conscious attention for implementing your new habit. And after a few weeks you’ll notice your crummy old habit fell away just easily as it first arrived – effortlessly.

Faye Bonomo
Faye Bonomo has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Science and an MBA from Colorado State university. She spent several years pursuing the western medicine approach to wellness, but found it came up short in some areas. Faye now promotes a balanced approach to personal wellness – one that seeks to balance a body’s biochemistry AND a body’s natural flow of life-force energy. She is the founder of AcuThrive.

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