How To Change Bad Habits Into Good Habits: 5 Steps From Research
Ironically, studies show saying “I’ll never do that again” makes you even more likely to do that again.
About 40% of the actions we perform in a day are habits. So we’re on autopilot almost half the time.
Let’s round up the research on bad habits and good habits and learn the best way to turn one into the other.
The first step is awareness. That cigarette doesn’t magically appear in your mouth. Noticing yourself acting habitually is a big first step.
We have to get off autopilot to make changes. It might be too hard to cut back on your habits at first. That’s okay.
Try reducing the variability in the habit. In other words, don’t even try to quit smoking; try to smoke the same number of cigarettes each day.
Find Your Triggers
Now that you’re noticing when you do your habits, focus on what triggers them. Stress? Friends? Identifying your triggers is key.
Getting rid of habits is hard. Assigning new habits to established triggers is far easier. What are you going to do now when that trigger arises?
Establish something new to take the place of the old habit.
“If-then” scenarios are one of the most powerful tools for resisting triggers. Establish a plan: “If I’m tempted to ______ then I will _______ instead.”
Rather than scrambling to resist with willpower, research shows people perform dramatically better when they already have an established “if-then” process ready. (More on how “If-then” can change your life here.)
Savoring these little achievements day by day is one of the reasons behind the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Manipulate Your Context
Instead, manipulate your environment so you don’t have to exert self-control. Throw out the donuts. Hide the booze.
This has been shown to be surprisingly powerful.
Manipulate your environment so as to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.
If you can make good habits take 20 seconds less time to perform and bad habits 20 seconds longer, you’ll likely see big changes in your behavior.
(More on how to use context to easily change your life here.)
Don’t Give Up
Join over 135,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.