This last year, we have seen an incredible increase in what is known as Habit-Breaking Behaviour. This is the conscious effort to try and reduce or eliminate any behaviour seen by the person themselves as negative. Here, I will lay out a few tips and observations found in research over the past 30 years for anyone who has a habit that they are trying to kick. Most research focuses on the two most popular habits which are drinking and smoking, however it has been found that these apply to the majority of behaviours that are perceived as negative.
- Quitting multiple things at once
It is usually encouraged for people to try and kick one habit of theirs before moving onto another. However, multiple papers including a paper by Gulliver (2006) found that focusing on two habits, for example drinking and smoking, may in fact make it easier to quit both than simply focusing on one at a time. It is argued that this is due to the brain treating the two as one task and so you are able to exercise greater willpower to help fight cravings.
2. Activity Replacement
A lot of articles exist out there that encourage you to exercise to help eliminate bad habits and while that is true it does not solely need to be exercise you engage in. Jager (2003) focused on replacement of habits with something the person perceived as positive change and how greatly this varies from person to person. For some people this could be exercise but for others it could be things such as meditation, writing, listening to music or calling friends. As long as your brain views it as a positive activity it is guaranteed to give your brain a helping hand eliminating cravings and managing potential slip ups.
The most important thing to consider when trying to kick habits is also the most overlooked. The greatest change happens as a result of your choice to make it happen, according to Sanchez-Craig (1990). Outside pressures usually hinder your ability to make a change as it has to come from you. This is why it is so important to know that you are ready to make a change before committing to it and that regressing in your plan is not the end of the world, just a sign that you need to try again until you are fully ready to kick the habit, which may take several attempts, but you will get there.
We all have habits we wish we could get rid of but when we want it to be more than a wish it is important that we do it in a way that is right for us. Nowadays there is an abundance of self help articles out there focused on helping you become the best version of you. But, the only person who knows what the best version of you is is you.
Jager, W., (2003). Breaking bad habits: a dynamical perspective on habit formation and change. Human Decision-Making and Environmental Perception–Understanding and Assisting Human Decision-Making in Real Life Settings. Libor Amicorum for Charles Vlek, Groningen: University of Groningen.
Gulliver, S.B., Kamholz, B.W. and Helstrom, A.W., (2006). Smoking cessation and alcohol abstinence: what do the data tell us?. Alcohol Research & Health, 29(3), p.208.
SANCHEZ‐CRAIG, M.A.R.T.H.A., (1990). Brief didactic treatment for alcohol and drug‐related problems: an approach based on client choice. British Journal of Addiction, 85(2), pp.169-177.