The Ultimate guide to give up your bad habits

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Habits are routine behaviors done on a regular basis. They are recurrent and often unconscious patterns of behavior and are acquired through frequent repetition. Many of these are unconscious as we don’t even realize we are doing them. It is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. Habit, from the standpoint of psychology, [as] a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it. Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habits are sometimes compulsory. When behaviors are repeated in a consistent context, there is an incremental increase in the link between the context and the action. This increases the automatically of the behavior in that context

Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.

So why do we still do them? And most importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

We all have a bad habit or two we could stand to lose, but habits are hard to break. Whether your bad habit is procrastinating, overspending, swearing, or any other one you want to change.

Features of an automatic behavior are all or some of:

•        Efficiency

•        Lack of awareness

•        Unintentionality

•        Uncontrollability

How habits are formed?

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Habit formation is the process by which a behavior, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual. This is modelled as an increase in automaticity with number of repetitions up to an asymptote. This process of habit formation can be slow.

As the habit is forming, it can be analyzed in three parts: the cue, the behavior, and the reward. The cue is the thing that causes the habit to come about, the trigger of the habitual behavior. This could be anything that one’s mind associates with that habit and one will automatically let a habit come to the surface.

Take complete responsibility for your actions. You are the king or queen of your actions — no one is responsible for them but you. When you get behind the driver’s seat after three too many drinks that is your decision. In some ways, it may be more practical than getting on a bus or hailing a taxi, but it’s still your decision. Whether you want to or not, you own up to your decisions at some point.

  • Realizing that you are completely responsible for your actions can leave you feeling overwhelmed or even paralyzed at first. You begin to realize that each of your actions has repercussions, and that those repercussions are wildly different than the ones you may have imagined when you acted in the first place. It’s a scary thought.
  • But ultimately, being completely responsible for your actions is empowering. You are the maker of your own destiny. Within certain norms, no one else can tell you what to do. Taking full responsibility for your actions gives you freedom. You begin to understand how habits can be metaphorical chains, and how breaking them can set you free.

Shopping habits are particularly vulnerable to change at “major life moments” like graduation, marriage, birth of first child, moving to a new home, and divorce. Some stores use purchase data to try to detect these events and take advantage of the marketing opportunity.

Some habits are known as “keystone habits”, and these influence the formation of other habits. For example, identifying as the type of person who takes care of their body and is in the habit of exercising regularly, can also influence eating better and using credit cards less.

A recent study by Adriaanse et al. (2014) found that habits mediate the relationship between self-control and unhealthy snack consumption. The results of the study empirically demonstrate that high-self-control may influence the formation of habits and in turn affect behavior.

Importance of habits

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The habit–goal interface or interaction is constrained by the particular manner in which habits are learned and represented in memory. Specifically, the associative learning underlying habits is characterized by the slow, incremental accrual of information over time in procedural memory. Habits can either benefit or hurt the goals a person sets for themselves.

Goals guide habits by providing the initial outcome-oriented motivation for response repetition. In this sense, habits are often a trace of past goal pursuit. Although, when a habit forces one action, but a conscious goal pushes for another action, an oppositional context occurs. When the habit prevails over the conscious goal, a capture error has taken place.

Behavior prediction is also derived from goals. Behavior prediction is to acknowledge the likelihood that a habit will form, but in order to form that habit, a goal must have been initially present. The influence of goals on habits is what makes a habit different from other automatic processes in the mind.

There are a number of habits possessed by individuals that can be classified as nervous habits. These include nail-biting, stammering, sniffling, and banging the head. They are known as symptoms of an emotional state and are generally based upon conditions of anxiety, insecurity, inferiority and tension. These habits are often formed at a young age and may be because of a need for attention. When trying to overcome a nervous habit it is important to resolve the cause of the nervous feeling rather than the symptom which is a habit itself or as a result one could experience anxiety. Anxiety is a disorder known for excessive and unexpected worry that negatively impacts an individual’s daily life, and routines.

Behavior modification refers to behavior-change procedures that were employed during the 1970s and early 1980s. Based on methodological behaviorism, overt behavior was modified with presumed consequences, including artificial positive and negative reinforcement contingencies to increase desirable behavior, or administering positive and negative punishment and/or extinction to reduce problematic behavior. For the treatment of phobias, habituation and punishment were the basic principles used in flooding, a subcategory of desensitization.

Behavior modification relies on the following:

•        Reinforcement (positive and negative)

•        Punishment (positive and negative)

•        Extinction

•        Shaping

•        Fading

•        Chaining

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. Originally, it was designed to treat depression, but its use has been expanded to include treatment of a number of mental health conditions, including anxiety.

3 ways to form a good habit

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Forming a new good habit can be a struggle, but it is well worth the effort. Having more good habits can help to achieve better overall health or accomplish a larger goal. Some things that you can do to form a new habit include identifying your motivation, creating a cue, and tracking your progress. If you have a bad habit you want to get rid of, just keep in mind that you may need to take steps before trying to replace it with a new good habit.

  1. Making a Plan

Before you can begin to work on your new habit, it is worthwhile to consider your goal. Figure out exactly what you hope to accomplish. Make sure that your goal is specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time bound (SMART) to increase your chances of success. Consider what you want to achieve and get as detailed as you can.


2. Identify the habit you want to form. 

Having good habits that are in line with the goals you want to achieve can improve your chances of attaining your goals. After you have set your goal and worked out all of the specifics of achieving that goal, identify a habit that is part of achieving that goal. Consider your goal and ask yourself, what good habit would help me accomplish this goal?

  • Consider your motivation. 

Once you have identified your goal and the new habit you need to form to accomplish this goal, take some time to consider your motivation. Your motivation is the reason you want to form this new habit. Good motivation can be the difference between succeeding and failing at forming a new habit, so take your time to consider your motivation.

If your habit is to hike regularly, you’re not going to climb Everest this weekend. If you have a big goal, like getting a new job, running a marathon or going to the gym five days a week, you need to break your goal down into increments. For example, if you want to run a marathon and you’re not much of a runner, try running two miles a day three days a week and build on that. If you try and do too much, you will most likely fail and destroy your morale. Have patience, start small and build on your progress.

Set yourself up for success. If you do not go to the gym because you forget your gym clothes, start packing them the night before. If you are forgetting to pack your lunch, pack it the night before. Too tired to go to the gym? Schedule a time and treat it like an appointment. Enable your habits by addressing your usual excuses and obstacles and preparing for success.

What gets measured gets managed. If you are trying to get a new job, keep track of how many applications you send and how many network connections you make and build on it. Measuring your progress also helps keep you motivated as you work towards your goal.

Everyone fails, and at some point you will as well and that is just fine. Whether you cheat on a diet, skip a work out, fail to send a job application that day or whatever it is, just get back in the saddle tomorrow. Success is often about not giving up in spite of rejection and failure, so do not lose heart when you experience a setback, keep working.

It’s no use beating yourself up when you don’t meet all of your goals. This is only going to make you angry with yourself. It’s easy to walk away from something when we are mad or disappointed in ourselves. So try to take the frustration out of by rewarding yourself for sticking to it for five days, ten days, etc.

Sticking to a new habit doesn’t have to cause you stress, and it shouldn’t feel like a burden that keeps you from living the life you want. If you are working towards the right goals, you should feel happy with yourself for making progress. You should feel good about yourself and the future.

Do your daily activities make it easy to perform your new habit? Perhaps integrating the new habit into something you already do will help put this new activity into regular practice.

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