7 Methods to Breaking Bad Habits

The institution of habits is a method of survival, energy conservation and productivity. By putting certain aspects of our lives on auto pilot, our mind is able to allocate it's energy toward the situations at hand. Were it not for habits, we'd be mentally exhausted by noon. Needless to say, habits are great!

But we live in a fallen world and they don't come without their pitfalls. Bad habits can form just as easily (often easier) than good habits and can result in a wide range of consequences. On one hand, it's a mild annoyance. On the other, a sever addiction. With the exception of some of the strongest addictions, there are a few ways that bad habits can be broken. Some methods work for some people, other methods work for certain habits and sometimes you need a jab-right-hook combo to take down a bad habit.

If you're fed up with a particular habit in your world, it's time to step up and do something about it. It's time to upgrade your life.


1. Take Away the Trigger

Habits work on a cue -> routine -> reward cycle where a particular trigger (a time of day, an action, an object, a person etc.) will prompt your mind to cue up a particular habit, then go through the routine of the habit, then reward yourself for doing it. If you take away the triggers, you're less likely to cue up the routine.


2. Reduce the Reward

In contrast to removing the trigger, reducing the reward attacks the opposite end of the habit process. If you're receiving a reward (physical, mental, emotional etc.), you're mind will look for more chances to cue up that habit. If, however, you remove or reduce the reward until it is no longer desirable, you're cutting out the motivation that drives the habit.


3. Increase the Consequences

Every decision in life comes with a consequence. Some are worse than others and some are more obvious than others. But at the very least, every decision comes with an opportunity cost. If you choose to do one thing, by default, you can't do another separate thing. This means that even habits with a reward come with a consequence. If you can isolate and increase the negative consequences of a particular habit, you can decrease your mind's desire to follow through.


4. Cut it Cold Turkey

It might hurt for a moment (maybe a long moment) but the end result is freedom. Sometimes you just have to rip off the bandaid.


5. Wean Off Over Time

While some habits are better broken at one time, others (the ones with less sever consequences) can be weaned off over time. As you reduce your triggers and rewards, after a while you'll suddenly not be reliant on that habit.


6. Fill your Life with Better Habits that Leave No Room for the Bad Ones

Like weeds in a garden (except opposite), you can crowd out the bad with the good. This method works in tandem with #1 Take Away the Trigger, #4 Cut it Cold Turkey, and #5 Wean Off Over Time. By literally filling your life so full of other good habits and activities that you have no time or energy for bad habits, you'll suffocate them.


7. Leverage Social Proof by Claiming You're Free from it

This method might not be the most conventional but by appealing to your ego, you can leverage social proof. Start by telling your friends and family that you're breaking your habit, then, in order to avoid embarrassment from failure, you'll fight the habit all the more strongly. This method is also used primarily in concert with the other methods listed above.


You can shape the routines in your life little by little to become a better version of yourself. A big piece of that puzzle is developing good habits, but another crucial element is not letting bad habits get in the way