How to Break Bad Habits

We’ve all heard that it takes around 21-30 days to form a new healthy habit, but how long does it take to break a bad one? Whether your vice is a sinful midnight snack or neglecting your alarm clock in the morning, here are a few ways to break free from bad habits. 

Know why it’s a bad habit

Are you cutting out meat and animal products because it’s trendy right now to be vegan? Or did you do your research and find that the high fat content of red meat could be the reason you sometimes feel too sluggish to attend all those classes you booked? Understanding the reasons behind your bad habit can make it a more reasonable (and therefore easier) sacrifice to make. 

Transform the bad habit to a good one

Whatever the habit, there is probably a pretty reasonable substitution to be made that will make ending the habit feel less drastic. If you can’t resist an extra large cup of fancy coffee each time you walk passed your favorite shop (even whilst on your journey to reduce caffeine consumption), try to occasionally swap the coffee for a flavorful herbal tea, or commit yourself to drinking a bottle of water each time you do order a coffee. By maintaining the harmless part of your habit (going into the coffee shop) but adapting the actual bad habit (way too much coffee) you will create a soft transition to success.

Find a positive reason to change

It’s going to take some motivation, but make sure that it’s coming from the right place. If your reason for wanting to workout every day is so you can look just like a certain fitness role model, consider making the solution to your bad habit more reasonable and personal. For example, deciding you want to work out because you want to feel healthier and increase your own self esteem is a more positive cause to rally behind. 

Make the change easier on yourself

Identifying the causes of the bad habit will go a long way. If you always reach for a few chocolate chip cookies after your healthy, home-cooked kale dinner, but have been wanting to break the habit of eating junk foods before bed, then stop buying the cookies and keeping them in the house in the first place. Less temptation, less bad habit.

Form a support force

Peer pressure is real, friends, but it works both ways. Surrounding yourself with friends that have similar goals will create an ideal environment to succeed. If you’re the chronic nail biter of the group, voice that you’re going to stop biting your nails and invite yourself to the biweekly manicure date. Feeling like a part of the “good habits group” will keep you motivated, hold you accountable, and make you a motivator to others that may be in the same boat. 

Realize the change can be gradual

Yes, it’s entirely possible that your bad habit may not be 100 percent solvable in the generally accepted 21-30 day period. And that’s fine, because the point is making an effort toward a more positive life. Smoking cigarettes is a perfect example of a habit that’s truly hard to kick, and success stories with quitting vary drastically across the board. Cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone, but there is something that will work for you. Focus less on the timing and just continue in a way that shows results, no matter how small.

See the value in small victories

Say you’re going for a 30 days of yoga challenge (which is totally ambitious by the way, good for you!), but by the end of your first week, you kind of just want to go home after work instead of rolling out the mat. That’s okay! Instead of giving yourself a hard time about missing a day, take a look on the bright side and praise yourself for already having gone four days in a row! Then just aim for five days on the next round.

Amy Hillock is a freelance writer and an executive producer at production company ASSEMBLY9 in New York City. She enjoys leading workplace wellness yoga in offices around Manhattan through YogaWithAim, and spending recklessly on travel plans, green juice and new Nikes. Follow her (mostly) healthy pursuits on Instagram and Twitter.