Inside: Ready to quit a bad habit quickly and keep it gone for good? These tips will help!
Got a bad habit that’s bringing you down?
You aren’t alone.
Most of us can point to at least one bad habit we’ve developed over the years – if not more.
Maybe you’ve made a habit of skipping the gym or spending too much time scrolling through your social media feed. Or maybe you apologize way too often, for things that aren’t even your fault. Maybe you bite your nails or drink too much caffeine – or soda.
Regardless of what your bad habit actually looks like, one thing is true – you aren’t going to make a change and break that habit unless you really want to make it happen.
If you do?
Keep reading to learn how to quickly quit a bad habit – for good!
Why Do We Develop Bad Habits?
Scientifically speaking, we develop bad habits for the same reason we develop good habits. Habits can happen due to repetition – doing the same thing the same way again and again.
Habits are also developed due to your brain’s reward system.
A classic example of this is smoking cigarettes. The nicotine in cigarettes triggers the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in your brain that can cause you to crave – and repeat – these not-so-great behaviors.
In some cases, our moods can also contribute to the development of bad habits. Snacking out of boredom, not hunger, is a bad habit that many fight to quit.
Biting our nails or fidgeting are bad habits often born from nervousness. And procrastination is a bad habit we often develop when we’re truly dreading the work ahead of us – not because we’re lazy.
Regardless of the cause, you can take steps to move away from those bad habits. And if you’re determined to make it happen, you can quit those bad habits quickly.
The Habit Loop
Ready to kick that bad habit to the curb? If you’ve got a bad habit, you’re stuck in what many people call the habit loop. It has three components – a cue, a routine, and a reward.
It starts with a cue – something that triggers your bad habit.
Then, there’s the routine – the action you take reflexively as a result of that cue.
And at the end of the habit loop, you’ll find the reward – the thing that keeps us coming back for more.
From there? You circle back to the cue, and the cycle continues.
The habit loop can be a helpful concept when it comes to quitting your bad habit – but we’ll get to that later.
How Can I Quickly Quit a Bad Habit?
Ready to kick that bad habit to the curb? It might not be easy, but it’s well worth the effort.
With a little intention, effort, and focus, you can make your bad habit history – and live a healthier, happier life.
1. Understand why this bad habit happened in the first place.
It’s really important to get to the root cause of your bad habit. Before you can truly begin to change, take a step back and reflect.
What are your cues? What could’ve triggered your bad habit? Was it a coping mechanism? A reaction to stress? Anxiety? Boredom?
Pay attention as you move through your day. How often does your bad habit rear its head? Does it happen at certain times? After certain experiences?
If you can recognize what triggers your bad habit, you can make a plan to address the root cause and eliminate that bad habit once and for all.
2. Replace your bad habit with a good one.
In the habit loop, your bad habit is the routine you follow as the result of a cue.
The best way to break that bad habit? Replace it with a new one – a positive routine. And while you’re at it? Tie that to a reward that’s motivating enough to truly make a difference.
A few examples:
- Your bad habit is that you always skip your morning run – because you hate running. Switch up your routine and try a spin class, or get a membership at a climbing gym. Reward yourself with that pair of workout shoes that you needed anyway after you make it through your first week. Pretty soon, you won’t need additional things to keep you going – the endorphins from your workout will be enough of a reward.
- Your bad habit is that you never go to bed on time. Despite your best efforts, you’re up until midnight – or later – and can never get enough rest as a result. Change your routine by setting an alarm to go to bed at your desired time. Reward yourself by making your bedroom an inviting and relaxing space that you actually look forward to winding down in.
- Your bad habit is online shopping. You’re spending way too much and need to stop. Change your routine by blocking those websites in your browser, and treat yourself to a relaxing bath or to a drink at your favorite local coffee shop as your reward.
3. Focus on one bad habit at a time.
Eliminating a bad habit doesn’t come easily for most. Instead, it requires a level of effort and intention.
That’s why it’s smart to focus on getting rid of only one bad habit at a time. Give it your full focus and attention, and you’ll make fast progress – which will let you move on to the next bad habit sooner.
4. Keep your intention in mind.
Bad habits are often such a part of our behavior that we do them without realizing it. That’s one of the reasons quitting a bad habit can be so difficult.
To make it easier to change that bad habit into a good one, try to raise your awareness of that bad habit. Put a reminder on your cell phone background so you think about it every time you check your phone – When I feel like doing X, I will do Y instead.
Repeat it as a mantra in the morning as you get ready. Find an accountability buddy to check in daily and keep you focused.
5. Read a book.
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Swing by the library, download an ebook, or put on an audiobook the next time you’re in the car.
There has been a LOT of research on habits in recent years, and there are quite a few great books on the topic of quitting bad habits.
While you certainly don’t need to take in all of that information to change your bad habit into a good one, deep-diving into the science of habits can be fascinating – and really helpful.
By empowering yourself with information, you’ll thoroughly understand why your habits happened in the first place and find yourself in a better position to change them.
A few great options include…
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (my personal favorite; I wrote about it here)
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg, PhD
But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of books out there on the topic of habits – and quitting bad habits for good.
What’s your best tip to quit a bad habit? Share in the comments below!
Want to read more posts on habits? Check out these:
- How to Start a New Habit
- How to Use Habit Stacking to Change Your Life
- 10 Daily Habits to Make This Your Best Year Yet
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Great post Julianna! One of my favorite tips from Atomic Habits is to never miss twice. If you miss one day don’t miss the next cause that can slide towards giving up. If you never miss twice you can stay consistent!