How to remove bad habits from your life 

Written by Nigel Simpkins

We all have habits; some are worse than others, but we can all be said to be ‘guilty’ of doing things, often without even thinking about them, that are bad for us. It could be something as minor as biting our nails or sucking our thumbs, or it could be much more serious like smoking, too much alcohol, or taking drugs.

The problem is, although we know we shouldn’t be doing these things, because they are habits it is difficult to stop, despite knowing exactly what the habit is doing to our body, and despite the hardships that some of these habits, particularly the more serious ones, are leading us into.

There are ways to stop, though, and although it will be hard it will also be worth it. Read on for more information.

Know the Habit

The best way to stop a habit is to be completely aware of it, ideally before it becomes a full blown addiction. A habit is usually something you do without thinking; it’s like your body is reacting on its own. If you’ve ever found you have lit a cigarette and started smoking it before knowing what you were doing, or you automatically pour a glass of wine without acknowledging that was what you were intending to do, or even if you find that you have your finger in your mouth and you’re chewing on your nail but you didn’t do it intentionally, then you have a habit.

Understanding the habit, realizing what it is doing to you, and making a conscious effort to be more present so that you know you are carrying it out are all crucial if you want to stop. When you know it is happening, you can make that conscious decision not to carry on.

Set Goals

Goals are hugely important when it comes to stopping any bad habit (or starting a good one, like exercising more or eating better food). If you just stop and go ‘cold turkey’ you could be doing more harm than good, especially if you are taking drugs or drinking too much. You can go into withdrawal and this can be physically and mentally damaging.

So it’s best to go slowly. Whatever the wake up call about your habit was, whether it was a health scare, being arrested for importation of controlled drugs, a relationship breakdown or anything else, this is the starting point and you don’t want it to happen again. So work backwards from there, setting smaller goals that you can achieve each day. This will soon become a habit in itself, and a good one that will help you.

Ask for Help

Something that many people with bad habits or addictions find difficult is asking for help. They will often feel ashamed and embarrassed, making excuses for their bad behaviour and hiding the fact that they have a problem.

This is not a good thing to do; it can actually make you much worse. If you need help then you should ask for it. You don’t have to speak to someone you know – there are many helplines you can call to get help, and this is the ideal starting point.