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The Clinic on Dupont Toronto

Identifying Bad Habits (and How to Break Them)

breaking a bad habit clinic on dupont blog

Bad habits — everyone’s got them.

From nail biting to being perpetually late, we all have little behavioural patterns that we could definitely live without. This article aims to identify what bad habits are, how they’re developed and how to overcome them. Being human is often used as an excuse, but we’re here to argue that human self-awareness and resilience is also the best defense against unhealthy and unwanted habits.

It’s important to distinguish a bad habit from an addiction or mental illness, as there are a number of factors that differentiate them. The most important is willpower. If there is a sense of control over the patterns and behaviours, then it’s defined as a habit.

What is a Habit?

The term “habit,” according to the American Journal of Psychology, is “a routine of behavior repeated regularly” that “tends to occur subconsciously.” A routine we repeat regularly becomes increasingly difficult to break or even to observe. It’s sort of like listening to a loved one talk with an accent. Over a long period of time, this accent will become less and less apparent until it’s fully unnoticed. Many of us who were raised by first-generation immigrant parents will hardly recognize that they have an accent different from our own until someone else points it out.

How Do Habits Start?

The development of a habit stems from repetition. There’s a very common misperception that a habit only takes sixty-six days to break, when in actuality it can take up to a year to fully disengage from a bad habit like smoking. The most obvious tool in fighting bad habits is the prevention of the habit to begin with. This is why educating the population about the harmful effects of smoking is so important. Never smoking is better (and much easier) than overcoming smoking. This example can be used for a number of bad habits. A parent instilling a child with a strong sense of time management and punctuality can be the best way to prevent that child from developing the pattern of being habitually late.

Other bad habits include nail biting, procrastination, fidgeting, and overspending. Again, it’s important to identify the essence of willpower when addressing these repeated routines. If someone has no willpower to control a pattern of behaviour, then it becomes reassessed as an addiction or mental illness.

How to Overcome Bad Habits?

Obviously, every habit is different, but we’re going to explain some basic tools that can help to overcome some of the most common bad habits that many of us cope with on a regular basis.

The first way to address and overcome a bad habit is to become conscious of the problem. This may sound simple or reductive, but it can be one of the most difficult steps in the process of overcoming a negative pattern. Try to notice what exactly you’re doing, and then identify the triggers and the environment of the habit. If you’re chewing your nails while stuck in traffic, take note.

After you have observed the habit and attempted to identify the issue, consider writing it down. Journal what you’re experiencing and how it’s affecting you. This might open your awareness to why you’re performing this behaviour. If you always chew your nails during traffic jams, it may be that the environment is causing you anxiety that leads to the nail-biting. Logging an experience can be a helpful tool in identifying the subconscious factors that affect a pattern of behaviour.

Next, consider replacing the habit with a less negative one. Consider chewing gum instead of having a cigarette. Replacing the habit may be easier than cutting it out cold turkey. It’s important, however, that the replacement habit has a similar sensation or result as the original negative behavioural pattern. That’s why chewing gum can be such a successful alternative to smoking. They both involve a similar physical behaviour and sensation.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy can be another useful tool to not only build the self awareness needed to identify bad habits, but to address the underlying causes, such as anxiety, depression and other psychological issues, that may be perpetuating these behaviours. CBT also works preventatively by helping people to develop healthy coping mechanisms that reduce bad habits, ensuring they don’t spiral into something worse.

Bad Habits Summary

Bad habits are something everyone has in some form or another. It’s important to address these patterns before they become increasingly difficult to fix. Habits can become addictions or other psychological disorders when there’s a lack of willpower— but where there’s a will…

There is always a way.

Do you believe you may be struggling with negative habits or an addiction?

Call The Clinic on Dupont at: (416) 515-2649

Or visit their website:  www.theclinicondupont.com

Posted September 30, 2016
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