We all have bad habits. We don’t exactly mean to, but let’s get real—a few are just unavoidable. Whether it’s not cleaning your room, procrastinating, or eating too many sweets, there are many habits I’m sure we would all love to live without. It’s not easy to break a habit, or change a behavior. Many of our habits are like clockwork, and often happen out of subconscious activity or thinking. So how do you break a habit and change your behavior for the better? What will it take and how should you start?

Well first, before you go cold turkey on every bad habit you’ve ever had, it’s important to keep it simple. You need to have a game plan and build in ways to slowly change your behavior. Set up a timeline, a realistic one. Nothing can instantly change. It will take time to break and build habits, but knowing that up front is half the battle and will help in the long run to visualize the habit you’re changing and the difference it will make.

So here’s my advice on how to do it. After making a game plan, or even a list of the habits you want to change, try and think how those habits start. Are there certain activities or instances that make these habits happen? What could you do instead? This is all part of the plan to not only recognize, but also face the habits you are trying to break.

Next, try to think of what you could do instead. By replacing your behavior or habit with a better one, you are making your job easier. Focus on doing the alternative every time you want to fall back into your bad habit.

What will make this easier is setting up a system to remind yourself of your goal. Set up a challenge period, or a block of time to test yourself into building a new habit. Have a slogan or a saying that motivates you and tape it up where you know you’ll see it! I have one on the side of my door, and on the bathroom mirror, that way I’m constantly reminded of what I want to achieve, or of the behavior I want to change.

The visualization and motivation slogans can be a great tool, however, remember to be positive. You don’t want to talk to yourself negatively, instead write something, or think about something in a positive light, and use proactive, happy language. For example, if you are trying to get fit, don’t write something insulting. Instead try a present tense statement like, “I am Fit.” This implies you are already doing, or have accomplished your goal and will help motivate you to keep the change rolling, and work to be or do the things you really want.

Another important key in breaking habits is to write it down. It’s one thing to say what you want to do, or think about it, but the commitment is stronger when you write it down.

Maybe you have friends who also have habits they want to change? Try using each other as support system. While writing your habit or goal down is a sign of commitment, nothing helps accountability like friend who publicly know about your goal. They can help keep you on track and even motivate you to keep going.

Now after all the planning and reminding is done and you are actually well on your way to breaking your habit, remember to reward yourself. Treating yourself to something special is a good way to solidify the work you are doing. However, if your bad habit is drinking soda, don’t move backwards and have one as a treat. No excuses or exceptions. Find milestones or benchmarks that will help provide you with feedback and a boost of confidence for working so hard.

Overall bad habits are hard to break. Nothing is easy—trust me, if it was we all wouldn’t have so many. But if you remember to keep it simple, take it slow, and set up a plan that is realistic and not dooming you to fail, you should be fine. Remember, any behavior takes time to change and rebuild but if you have the determination and the support to roll with, make sure you try! Plus, no one says you can’t have fun with it—challenge yourself, write about it, or turn it in to a game! You are your biggest fan when it comes to breaking a bad habit, so encourage and motivate yourself to succeed any way you can!

-Ring Queen

I’m reading Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity

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