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How to Let Go of Bad Habits: 5 Tips for Overcoming Obstacles and Improving Your Life

Have you ever seen a kid losing a balloon? Letting go of habits has similarities: It can be as easy or hard as saying goodbye to a balloon.

Future Habits Illustration of your You and Future You

As long as you feel attached to it, it's hard. You fear losing something, and your fear comes from a deep-rooted part of your brain—the Amygdala. Amygdawhat? Yep, read on and find out about it in this article.


Sorry, Bad Habit, but We Have to Break Up.

If you find yourself trapped in a vicious cycle of bad habits that you just can't seem to break, well, you're not alone. We all have at least one or two bad habits we'd like to change, whether mindlessly scrolling on our phones before bed or snacking while watching Netflix.


Breaking bad habits is essential if we want to grow and improve our lives, but it's easier said than done.

In this blog post, we'll explore why breaking bad habits is so difficult and share some actionable tips to help you overcome these obstacles.


Firstly, it's important to understand how habit cycles work. A habit cycle consists of four parts: the cue, the craving, the response, and the reward.


The cue triggers automatic behavior, the craving is the desire to do the behavior, the response is the actual behavior itself, and the reward is the payoff for doing the behavior. Whether we talk about good or bad habits, this cycle is in play. However, understanding this cycle gives us the knowledge and power to use it for good.

​Cue

Triggers automatic behavior

Craving

The desire to do the behavior

Response

The actual behavior itself

Reward

The payoff for doing the behavior


Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is not easy, as our brains are wired to keep us doing familiar things.

Doing something new or unfamiliar activates the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional processes such as fear and anxiety. When we try to break a bad habit, our brain tells us to stop because it doesn't want us to feel fear or anxiety. Moreover, our brain memorizes the pattern, breaking a bad habit even harder.



Future Habits Illustration of the Amygdala


One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to increase mindfulness, which is the awareness of the present moment. Practicing mindfulness with meditation has been shown to strengthen the prefrontal cortex visibly, the part of the brain that gives us the power to break the loop, evaluate actions, let go of old habits, and form new ones. It also reveals that the right amygdala shrinks, making it easier for us to resist the temptation of bad habits.


However, breaking a bad habit isn't just about meditation. We can also harness the reward-based learning process to break bad habits.


Psychiatrist Judson Brewer discovered that being curious and aware helped with smoking cessation in study participants.

Looking at something with curiosity will reward you since curiosity is naturally rewarding. He asked the participants to smoke curiously and consciously. This broke the loop and led to the realization that it tasted and smelled disgusting.


Make a bad habit so unattractive that you know it in your bones.

In conclusion, breaking bad habits is not easy, but it's possible. Understanding the habit cycle, increasing mindfulness through meditation, and harnessing the reward-based learning process can help you break free from bad habits.


Remember, breaking a bad habit takes time, effort, and dedication. So, be patient with yourself and keep working towards a healthier and happier you.



 

5 Tips in a Nutshell:


  1. Understand and keep in mind how habit cycles work.

  2. Increase mindfulness through meditation.

  3. Harness the reward-based learning process.

  4. Make bad habits unattractive.

  5. Be patient and dedicated, and work towards a healthier you.

If you finally want to meditate every day, you can download our free DailyHabit TrackSheet with practical tips to keep it up. You can find it here.





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