How to kill bad habits (and create good ones)

A lot of us are plagued by bad habits but we just don’t know how to break them. Research points out that it is not possible to completely eliminate a bad habit, however it is possible to replace it with another one. If you have been plagued by gaming/porn/gambling/smoking/drinking or procrastination and negative thinking, you’ve come to the right place.

In the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, the author does an excellent job of condensing research on habit formation in a nice engaging, compact book and lays down a basic three step process that all habits follow:

Cue – Routine – Reward

Example of a bad habit:
Cue: Bored in the afternoon with nothing to do.
Routine: Eating sugary snacks
Reward: Temporary sugar high which makes you feel not bored

The key to breaking bad habits and forming good habits lies in figuring out your cue and reward. The routine is the automatic reflex you indulge in when you crave the reward. The routine is the most obvious part of habits.

In the above case, a reasonable guess could be- the person just needs something to ease their boredom. In that case, they should figure out a fun activity they can do to ease their boredom more effectively than sugar could. Simple examples could include reading novels/comics/manga, listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk, calling up someone for a chat and so on.

Introspection and Experimentation
Making such changes in life is not easy. You will have to sit with your journal for a few days and meditate upon what works and what doesn’t. Figuring out the exact cue and reward will take some introspection. Don’t be disheartened if your first experiment does not work, try something else the next time and document what works in your journal.

Making it Easier
Make it easy to stick to good habits and harder to continue bad habits. This way, it makes a small but subtle change to our brain that it is getting harder to do that, why not do this instead?
Examples:

  • Keep books around to read when bored
  • Have your shoes ready by the door to go for a walk
  • Keep fruits around to snack on when really hungry
  • Keep gaming controller/TV remote tucked away in a drawer
  • Keep snacks in some deep cupboard.

Next Sunday’s article will talk about tackling multiple goals with solid scheduling. Stay tuned for a fun article on Wednesday at 5pm too!

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