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Habits are repetitive actions that are not necessarily consciously engaged. In Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, it is noted that habit formation is a multi-pronged process that happens in several areas of the brain. Since habits can become passive, it is possible to engage in negative habits without realizing their impact on your life. Identifying and breaking negative habits can aid in stress reduction. Replacing those habits wing positive habits can improve life quality. This article will look at how negative habits are formed and how they can be addressed.

Identifying Negative Habits

Not all habits are negative, but because habits can be engaged unconsciously, it’s possible to fall into a negative pattern of behavior by repeating actions that do not serve you. A bad habit can be something as simple as picking your nails or a repetitive pattern of negative self-talk that stops you from achieving what you are capable of. Smoking and other drug use are habits that negatively impact you physically, and their reach can also impact you financially and socially. Those are habits that are easy to spot because they are broadly considered negative. 

Some other habits that may have a negative impact on your life are:

  • Saying yes too often: This can be a symptom of a lack of boundaries. If you suspect you may be overextending yourself, before you say your next “yes,” consider whether you want to and whether it will harm you to do so.
  • Under or oversleeping: Rest is important. It sets you up for a successful day. The lack of sleep can weary your mind, making it hard to effectively complete the tasks you need to. Oversleeping can be an avoidance tactic, similarly impacting your productivity and sense of wellness.
  • Saying no too often: Like saying yes, firing off a no can cause you to miss out on opportunities that may benefit you. This can be a sign of boundaries that are too strong, walling you off from life. It can also be a symptom of fear.
  • Eating too much or too little: Food is necessary for energy production. Not eating enough or eating too much can cause weight loss or gain, sluggishness, and a sense of being unwell. It is also possible these habits are rooted in eating disorders and may need to be treated professionally. 

Breaking Negative Habits

It’s time to break a negative habit when it is troubling your life. This can be done through mindfulness-based activities such as meditation, yoga, or creative therapies that bring your attention to your emotional process. These practices encourage you to notice thoughts and impulses as they arrive and dismiss them without judgment. Eventually, you will be able to identify the root of the thought or impulse and dismiss that as well. The idea is that your negative habit will go with it.

However, the first step to breaking a negative habit is to identify it. This is where mindfulness is the most helpful; through practicing mindfulness, you can determine what habits, thoughts, or actions bring you joy versus which bring you stress. From there, you can turn your attention to when and where the habit began and take the next steps. In this case, the next step would be replacing negative habits.

Replacing Negative Habits

When breaking negative habits, it can be very helpful to choose an activity to replace them. For example, if you are trying to quit smoking, choosing to go for a walk or listen to music can help you manage the desire to smoke as you go through withdrawal. Choosing not to smoke becomes part of the positive habit that replaces smoking, eventually becoming passive and leading you to be free from smoking.

Support is a beneficial factor in letting negative habits go. Turn to friends or family for support. Ask yourself about your motivations for breaking a negative habit. What will be gained by this change? Is there a date by which you’d like to complete this change? Use the answers to these questions to set goals and track your progress. Seeing how far you’ve come will help you stay motivated to keep going. Plan small rewards, such as a new shirt or a trip to your favorite candy shop for yourself, at intervals for the hard work you are doing. 

Ultimately, take pleasure in the new habit you are enjoying in place of the old one that didn’t serve you. By breaking a negative habit and forming a new, positive habit, you have improved your quality of life. No habit is too big or small for change to happen. Whether you are working to break from addiction or stop biting your nails, the energy you put into supporting your own wellness is worthwhile. 

Negative habits can creep up on us and can be signs of addictive behaviors, such as is the case for over or undereating and eating disorders. It’s time to break a negative habit when you realize it is troubling your life. It can be tough to dismantle the cycle of a habit since it can often be unconscious. Mindfulness-based activities are a great way to bring your attention to those habits and potentially replace them with other positive habits that support a healthy life. If you or someone you know is struggling to break a negative pattern in their life, contact West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 for guidance on how to release negative habits.