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A habit is a specific behavior or action that someone may do regularly. Habits are not always harmful, but most of the time, a habit may be considered an unhealthy pattern of behavior. Habits are typically learned and may become involuntary over time, meaning that there is no mindful awareness of the action or behavior. As habits can come in many forms, it is necessary to identify them in order to know if they are harmful or healthy. Identifying them can also help distinguish possible replacements and alternatives and help individuals recognize the severity of the habit itself. 

Identify the Habit

For many people, harmful habits are brought to awareness through the consequences that the habit may be causing. For others, becoming aware of personal habits is not always an easy task. Habits often become so ingrained in daily routines that they are eventually not even recognized. 

The first step to breaking or stopping a habit is to identify the habit itself. Start by practicing a day of mindfulness by addressing what actions happen consciously and which actions happen because of habit. Notice what actions bring a sense of security and which actions bring stress.

If a habit is already identified, try to develop an understanding of where and why the habit began. Many habits are picked up from friends and family. Other habits are acquired as a coping mechanism for stressors or other anxiety. Identifying a specific habit may be accompanied by recognizing the severity of harm as well. Finding the root cause and severity of a habit makes it easier to find more positive replacements or alternatives. 

Find Alternative Habits and Replacements

Once a habit has been identified and a root cause has been located, one must identify alternatives or replacements for the habit in order to break it. One example of a harmful habit may be intense swearing when there are young children present. The root cause of this example may be that the person grew up swearing and never saw an issue. At this point, they have realized that they do not want their young kids using the same language. A good replacement for this example would be to find funny words to replace where the person would use a cuss word. This is a great chance to be creative and share a laugh with other family members. 

One may also consider vaping a harmful habit, and they may vape because it is a stress reliever. A vaping habit may have a root cause of always having a vape in one’s hand. The individual may be able to break the habit by finding something else to hold for extended periods of time. A good replacement for this specific example may be to purchase a fidget toy. Fidget toys are self-regulation tools that help with focus, attention, and stress. 

Set Goals and Track Your Progress

Goal setting does not have to be the last step in breaking a habit; it is the first step in initiating change for some. Refrain from setting a goal as broad as “I will stop drinking.” The more general the goal, the more difficult it is to hold oneself accountable. Be specific with the goal that is created. Some questions one can ask themself while they are setting a goal include:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Why is this specific habit harmful to me?
  • What limits do I want to set for myself?
  • What can I use to replace my harmful habit?
  • How will I track my progress?
  • When do I want to complete this goal?
  • When will I know I’ve met my goal?
  • What can I do to reward myself for meeting my goal?

Create a Reward System

Breaking a habit is not an easy task, so creating a reward system for making progress or completing a goal is a great motivator. After creating specific progress milestones, develop particular rewards; this is another excellent chance to be creative. There may be a specific dessert that one may use as a motivator, such as treating oneself to ice cream or exquisite pie from a local bakery. 

Be sure to make the reward for your goal different and more elaborate than your progress goals. This will increase their willingness to stay motivated and encouraged them to continue breaking the habit. An example of a reward for meeting an end goal could be using the money, time, or energy spent on the habit to buy something or do something nice for oneself. Habits are unique to everyone. Be sure to specialize goals, milestones, and rewards unique to the habits’ case. 

As habits come in many forms, progress can also come in many forms. Habits are difficult to break, hence why they are typically involuntary. By bringing awareness to habits, one can bring greater attention to the actions and behaviors that come with consequences. Finding alternative ways and replacements for habits is essential in breaking the habit itself. Breaking harmful habits can increase confidence in oneself and foster personal growth in goal setting. By setting goals, tracking progress, and creating a reward system, there are clear motivators that can lead to tremendous success in breaking a habit. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we know how difficult harmful habits can be to break, so let us help you. We can help you build and maintain a life of purpose and fulfillment. We offer various options to choose from so you can tailor your outpatient treatment experience to ensure success by meeting your specific recovery needs. For more information, call (760) 492-6509.