How To Make or Break a Habit

Dr. Purushothaman
January 10, 2014


Let's face it, we all have habits, some good and some bad. Habits are learned behaviors that we've picked up somewhere along the way. Most of us have a habit or two we'd like to break, or a habit we'd really like to make as part of our daily routine.
For most people, it takes only a few weeks for a new behavior to become routine, or habit. The following steps can make it easier to establish a new behavior pattern.
The first thing to do is to set a goal. When you are trying to stop or break a habit, you should always set a postitive goal towards the task. For example, instead of saying "I will quit buying fast food for my family and I", say "My family and I will cook delicious and healthy meals together every night". Make sure to write down your goal because commiting it to paper helps you to take your goal more seriously. Tip: It can help if you tell your goal to someone who supports and encourages you.
If you are wanting to stop a bad habit then think of a new positive habit to start in its place. This is a very important step. It helps to focus on a new positive behavior while trying to stop an old bad habit. This make it easier to break the old bad habit and prevents it from returning.
Pay attention to what triggers your habit. Remember, behavior patterns don't exist on their own. Often times, a habit can be associated with another part of your regular daily routine. For instance, in the junk food example above the trigger may be that you make other daily tasks more of a priority and then you make the excuse that you don't have time to cook a healthy meal. Many people who smoke automatically light up after eating. Think about when and why you do the thing you want to quit.
Place reminders around your home and work space like notes or pictures. It really helps to place them in places where you tend to have the bad habit. For example: You want to break the habit of eating when you are bored. Place a note on the refrigerator where you will see it that says "Bored? Go for a walk."
Get help and support from someone who has the same goal as you. This can be very helpful and motivating. Having a good support system with people you see every day can help you make or break your habit faster and easier. Stay away from people who seem to be naysayers or sabatoers.
Have daily affirmations about your goal. This is my favorite part. The idea is to write down or say what it is that you want to change several time a day. Write or say it in present tense, as if it is already happening. This "tricks" you subconscious mind into thinking it is happening. For example:
Don't say "I don't want to be tired and fat anymore"
Do say "I am now healthy, thin and full of energy"
Finally, be sure to reward yourself for your progress. This helps make the challenges you face every day worth it in your subconcious mind. They do not have to be extravagant rewards. They can be something small or sentimental that gives you a pat on the back for a job well done and encourage you to keep going.

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