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Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Break a Habit

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Learn to train yourself to break any annoying habit. Do you bite your nails? Chew on your hair? Suck your thumb? Don't worry, there is a way to break all of these bad habits. You just have to encourage and motivate yourself.


  1. Understand and admit to yourself that you have a bad habit. You won't get anywhere unless you can admit this fact. Ask yourself:
    • What is my bad habit?
    • Why can't I get rid of it?
    • What things stop me from getting rid of it?

  2. Decide how you will break your habit. Here's a good method: Every time you catch yourself preparing to bite your nails, suck your thumb, or whatever else you do, stop yourself and make a mark on a calendar. If you really stick to your goal, you will see the number of marks steadily decrease over time.
  3. Build your own "NO-SMOKING" zone : Find someone you like who disapproves of your habit. Tell yourself you will not indulge in the act whenever you are around that person. If you like the person enough, you will find yourself having less desire to go back to the habit. Use the person as an anchor. Just be around this person whenever you feel like controlling the urge. (This doesn't neccasarily mean you can't be around this person when indulging in the undesired habit, just try to use their dislike of the habit to fuel your own will to quit)
  4. Capitalize on other negatives: Use any other clashing habit or negative about yourself to combat the habit. For instance, if you're lazy, be lazy about your habit. Think of it as too much effort. If you're a smoker, keep your pack locked up in your car down the street. Then you'll find it easy to be too lazy to go get one.
  5. Try to replace your habit with something new and positive in your life. The key is not to focus on the "not doing", but to think instead about "doing". Instead of thinking about missing that piece of chocolate cake after dinner, think about how good it is going to feel to take a long walk without all that sugar in your system.
  6. Reward yourself. Once you have gone a week or so with no marks on the calendar, buy yourself a sundae, go shopping, eat at a fancy restaurant, or whatever makes you happy.
  7. Forgive yourself when you slip: Don't beat yourself up if you end up falling into the habit again. Pick yourself up and try again. Your efforts have not been wasted and you have not lost any ground. With every attempt you make yourself stronger.
  8. Open your eyes : Life shows you the way if you just listen. You always "know" when you're crossing a line. Go by your gut and avoid it when you "know" you should.
  9. Visualize the new you, without the habit: See it, feel it, hear the sounds of success. Hear the compliments. Hear your new thoughts of how great it feels to have made this change.


  • If you are trying to break a habit in a sport (eg. for cricket, throwing a ball instead of bowling it), then try doing 20 bowls concentrating on keeping your arm straight. Then sit in the quietly for 20 minutes and "Meditate" about what it felt like, the pros, and how much better cricketer you could be if you could bowl properly. Then go back to bowling again and this time do 40 bowls. Then return to the quiet place and do exactly the same meditation, but this time for 5 minutes.This should break the habit very quickly. This is because it makes a connection stronger between the stored memory and the neurones that tell you what to do. In this way, you can use existing habits to your advantage.
  • Prepare the mind before you do anything else.
  • Pay attention to rhythms: All habits are about rhythm, following a pattern of stimulus and response. The trigger could be an event, an emotion or the passing of time. Break the rhythm and you'll break the habit. Vary the rhythm by doing the act at different times or for different reasons. Try watching too much TV when you don't feel like it, or try not leaving dirty laundry on the bathroom floor when you do feel like it. This way you can remove the mental correlation of the act with the stimulus, and begin to do the act only as a matter of choice, not a matter of habit.
  • Some people say that it takes 30 days to form a pattern and 90 days to form a habit, so plan on giving this a good chance.
  • See wikiHow links below for specific tips on specific habits.
  • Sometimes you will start your bad habit again after stopping. Maybe your mind hasn't quite stuck to the idea yet. Just break the habit as many times as it takes.
  • Rewards may keep you motivated and may lead to a new and positive habit in your life.
  • Get a friend to help you break a habit; someone you can trust in and rely upon.
  • Carry a rock for every time you do your bad habit; or create a 'habit jar'. Every time you give in to your habit, put in a dollar or pull out a slip of paper that tells you to do something you don't want to do, like cleaning the toilet.
  • Don't give up!
  • You'll need the support of your friends and family. If they're constantly telling you you won't succeed, you'll have trouble. Bad habits are often caused by stress, so tell them you're trying very hard, and ask for their support.


  • There is a big difference between an addiction and a habit! Addictions often have biological causes, like substance abuse or smoking. These are more serious than other habits and require professional help. (Smoking might not, but substance abuse certainly does.)
  • Try to stay away from cheating on these things, because you are not cheating anyone else, only yourself.
  • Be careful and decide ahead of time if you are going to punish yourself when you do your habit. Although self-punishment could work, it still has a negative effect on you, so rewarding yourself for not giving in could work better.

Things You'll Need

  • A calendar
  • A pen

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Break a Habit. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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