Breaking Bad Habits Using Psychology (Guide)

This smoking woman needs to break her bad habit.

Take Control. Stop the habit.

Breaking bad habits is difficult. But I am willing to bet that you are here because really want to change.

How can you end your habit? The good news is that the more it matters to you the easier it will be. Throughout this article, we will use cigarettes and nicotine addiction as our example.

Habits cycle through 3 stages:

  1. The cue reminds you of the behavior you are trying to avoid. For smokers, the cue inspires the urge to smoke a cigarette.

  2. The reward is whatever satisfies your urge or craving. For smokers, this is the cigarette and the addicting nicotine within that provides a buzz or high.

  3. The routine is the process, or cycle, by which you consume the reward. A nicotine addict takes a cigarette box out of his jacket, picks one of the cigarettes, lights it, and takes a hit. Or maybe, he and his co-worker take a 5 min break at 10 am every morning.

Those are the three steps of the cycle.

The cue could be as simple as seeing someone else smoke or a co-worker or fellow student asking you to join them for a smoke.

Avoid social pressure while breaking bad habits.

Social pressure is one of the most common reasons people become entrenched in a bad habit. When the habit becomes a sort of social ritual, when other people expect you to continue, it becomes very difficult to quit. Do you eat too much sugar? Imagine someone sticking a cookie in your face. You are going to give in because the social pressure offers you an excuse.

This is especially true for those who have recently quit. Right after you stopped consuming the reward, you will feel the urge to continue very strongly. All you can think about are the things that would satisfy your craving.

Ending a bad habit is tricky.

It is easier to break bad habits if you have good friends.

Do not hang around people who encourage the types of behavior you want to avoid. Be careful who you surround yourself with. Yeah, yeah this is a cliche adage, but I think it is also a very important life lesson.

Cigarettes in an ash tray.

Bad habits form fast and can easily destroy your life, while good habits are hard to form and worth every drop of sweat. Your choice of friends will either help or hurt you. Do not make your life more difficult.

The things we do, the choices we make on a regular basis will carry you to either excellence or failure. We do not talk enough about social pressures applied by our peers and group of friends. An environment filled with friends who do not help you grow but limit your potential, prevent you from breaking bad habits, and waste your time will make it impossible to develop yourself.

After you have assessed your friend group, we can begin to talk about what you can do at each stage of habit cycle.

The Cue

Whenever you feel the urge to satisfy your habit, take a moment to analyze your surroundings. Ask yourself:

  • What time is it?

  • Where are you?

  • Who else is around you?

  • What activity are you engaged in?

  • What emotions were you feeling?

It is almost certain that one of these is the cue for your habit.

The Reward

What craving do you want to satisfy? Figure out how you can substitute the harmful reward with a neutral or positive reward that will still grant satisfaction.

Exercises like running can help you break bad habits.

Heavy smokers use tools like nicotine chewing gum. By chewing gum instead of smoking, the addict protects his lungs while enjoying the stimulus of nicotine. This situation is not ideal, since the addict has not beaten their addition, but it is better than breathing toxic smoke.

It is pretty well documented that electronic cigarettes are typically less harmful to the human body. These devices allow smokers to experience the sensations of smoking a normal cigarette. Substitute the buzz provided by a cigarette with the endorphin high that you receive from running a few miles or hitting the gym. In my opinion, exercise is the best substitute for any habit.

The Routine

Once have identified the cue and the reward, it is time to insert a new routine into your schedule. If possible, choose an activity that is triggered by the old cue and delivers the old reward.

In my smoking example, the cigarette isn't the reward, the nicotine, that little buzz, is the reward. The new routine would be chewing nicotine gum or smoking an electronic cigarette.

If you are a mentally strong person, you might choose and even healthier routine. Some nicotine addicts will brush their teeth instead of smoking or chew none-nicotine gums or Tic Tacs. Others drink a glass of water when they feel the urge to smoke.

After 10 days of avoiding the habit, you have beat the worst part. I like to keep track of my progress in a journal. The longer my streak, the stronger my determination to keep going becomes.

And that his how you can start breaking bad habits today. I hope this has been a helpful article. This guide should work regardless of your goal. People use it to lose fat, stop masturbating, start working out etc.

If you want more information check out Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit