How to break a bad habit

My simple but effective technique

Breaking a habit doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not going to be easy – it’s going to take time and commitment. But you can break a bad habit if you really want to.

Get serious

To break a bad habit, you need to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself:

  • How badly do you want it?
  • Why is it important to you?
  • How will it make you feel?
  • Are you ready to commit?

It helps to visualise yourself and all the positive changes that will come from replacing the bad habit with a good one. It’s important to know that habits are triggered by things like boredom, stress, people, places, emotion, or particular days or times. Knowing your triggers will help you to disrupt the pattern and break the habit.

I had a bad habit of drinking two or three frappes a day. In case you don’t know, a frappe is a cold drink filled with sugar, caffeine and has no nutritional value. It cost me between $18-$25 a day. I wanted to break this habit because of the cost, and even though it gave me a quick energy boost, I would come crashing down just in time to buy another one.

    My Triggers

    1. Emotions – I felt tired and was looking for a quick pick me up.
    2. Places (location) – I would drive past two-three of these coffee shops every day.
    3. Times – every morning, occasionally at lunchtime and every afternoon.

    Once I’d identified my triggers, I worked out a plan

    To avoid feeling tired and looking for a pick me up, I increased my water intake, and I ate a nutritional breakfast to help with my energy levels. This also helped to curb my cravings for a frappe in the morning.

    I decided to avoid the locations that triggered my habit by taking a different route to and from work so that I avoided the temptation.

    At lunchtime, I made myself a smoothie with protein powder, a teaspoon of coffee and ice water, which satisfied my lunchtime craving. And suddenly, I just wasn’t tempted in the afternoons.

    Support and accountability

    I also told my family, friends and the staff at the drive-through coffee shop about my plan. By sharing my goals I had additional support, I was accountable because I didn’t want to let myself down, but I wanted to prove to others that I could do this. It worked. I gave up my three-a-day frappe addiction.

    Some common bad habits

    Sleeping in instead of working out

    I’ve helped a few of my clients to break their bad habit of sleeping in and replaced it with training in the morning.

    Finding the triggers and planning to disrupt them 

    • When the alarm goes off in the morning get up straight away. Don’t hit snooze – just get up.
    • Have your gym bag, clothes and water ready to go. Some clients even went to bed wearing their gym clothes! Do whatever helps you reach your goal.
    • In the first week, I would send my clients an evening message reminding them to be organised. In the morning, I’d send something like: “What an amazing day I am looking forward to training you this morning”. 

    The next step is consistency. If you’re consistent with the new pattern, soon the good habit becomes like any other task you do. It becomes automatic, and you do it without thinking like brushing your teeth or having a shower – you just do it.

    Snacking after dinner

    Here is another example. I used the same technique to help break the habit of snacking after dinner. This client would eat her dinner, clean up, sit down for 30 minutes to watch TV and then she would get up and raid the fridge.

    The triggers 

    • Location – at home especially the kitchen 
    • Time – after dinner

    The plan

    She was to change her evening routine by eating dinner, cleaning up and then going upstairs to have a shower and going to bed, where she would read or watch TV. I told her that if she went to the fridge after dinner, she had to promise me that she would do five burpees or scream. I know that sounds weird, but that was another way to disrupt the pattern.

    She hated burpees and was too embarrassed to scream so this is how she overcame her late night snacking.  

    By breaking this habit she was rewarded with better sleep, weight loss, energy, clearer skin and she was genuinely amazed at the difference it made to her well being.

    Are you ready to break your bad habits?

    Follow this simple technique to replace your bad habits with good habits.