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Master the art of habit breaking: your 7-step guide

Transform your life with our expert strategy to overcome unwanted habits

Breaking habits can often feel like an uphill battle, but with the right approach, it’s entirely possible to transform your life. Whether it’s late-night snacking, smoking, or any other unwanted behavior, our comprehensive 7-step guide is designed to help you understand, confront, and replace your habits with healthier alternatives. Embark on a journey towards self-improvement and discover the power of change within you.

Step 1: Choose the habit to break

Focus on one habit at a time for maximum effectiveness. Select a habit you’ve identified as harmful and are motivated to change. Be specific about what this habit is and when it typically occurs.

Step 2: Understand the habit

Use your self-assessment and trigger identification work to understand the habit. What function does it serve? What triggers it? What reward do you get from it? This understanding is crucial for developing an effective strategy to break it.

Step 3: Set clear, achievable goals

Define what success looks like. Instead of a vague goal like “I will stop snacking late at night,” set a specific and measurable goal like “I will limit my post-9pm snacking to one night per week.” Setting achievable goals helps you to track progress and stay motivated.

Step 4: Develop a replacement strategy

Instead of just trying to stop the habit, replace it with a healthier alternative that satisfies the same need. If stress triggers your habit of consuming ice cream every night, replace the bowl of ice cream with some Greek yogurt and frozen banana slices.

Step 5: Create a trigger plan

Prepare for how you will handle the triggers associated with the habit you’re trying to break. If you can’t avoid the trigger, plan an alternative response by using the ‘If-Then’ technique. For example, “If I feel stressed (trigger), then I will take a short walk instead of smoking (habit).” Also remember that setbacks are a normal part of the habit-changing process. If you slip up, have an ‘If-Then’ course correction plan at the ready and move on. 

Step 6: Track your progress

Once you begin to implement the change, keep a journal or use an app to track your progress. Monitoring helps with identifying what’s working and where you need to adjust your strategy. Regularly reflect on your journey. What’s working? What isn’t? Be prepared to tweak your plan based on your real-world experience.

Step 7: Reward yourself

Set milestones and reward yourself when you reach them. Rewards reinforce positive behaviour and keep you motivated. As your new behaviour becomes more consistent, it starts to form into a habit. Keep reinforcing it until it becomes as automatic as the old habit.

By adhering to these seven steps, you’re not just breaking a habit; you’re paving the way for a lifetime of healthier choices and personal growth. Embrace each step as an opportunity to better understand yourself and your capabilities, leading to lasting change and fulfilment.

Breaking habits with tech

When used correctly, technology can help you break bad habits by providing tools for tracking, motivation and reminders. Let’s delve into how different types of technology can be leveraged for this purpose.

Habit tracking apps

Purpose: These apps help you monitor your progress and keep track of your behaviour over time.

How they help: By logging your behaviour, you gain insights into patterns and triggers, making it easier to identify areas for improvement.

Examples: Apps like Habitica gamify habit tracking, while others like Streaks provide a simple, visual representation of your progress.

Reminder apps and alarms

Purpose: Setting reminders can help you stay aware of your goals.

How they help: Reminders can interrupt the automatic process of a bad habit and prompt you to engage in a replacement behaviour.

Examples: Apps like Google Keep or Apple Reminders allow you to set customised alarms for specific times or even locations.

Mindfulness and meditation apps

Purpose: These apps are designed to improve self-awareness and reduce stress, which are key components in changing habits.

How they help: They can help manage the emotional and psychological triggers of habits, offering a healthy alternative response to stress or boredom.

Examples: Headspace and Calm offer guided meditation sessions that can aid in developing mindfulness, a useful skill in habit change.

Wearable technology

Purpose: Devices that track physical activity, sleep patterns, and more.

How they help: Wearables can provide real-time data about your behaviours, helping you to understand and modify them.

Examples: Fitness trackers like Fitbit or smartwatches with health apps can be useful in breaking habits related to physical activity and sleep.

Blocking and productivity apps

Purpose: These apps are designed to limit distractions and manage time more effectively.

How They Help: They can help break habits of procrastination or excessive use of digital devices by restricting access to certain apps or websites.

Examples: Apps like Freedom or block distracting websites and apps during set times.

Photo Charles Duck

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