Habits are a normal part of life. Habits help us save time so that we are able to focus our attention and energy on things that require more concentration. The problem is, when we have formed habits that don’t line up with our goals or what we want to accomplish in life, they start to get in the way of us experiencing the life that we want to live.
When you notice this, you may try to take steps to break a bad habit for good. The problem is, changing a bad habit can be difficult. The information in this article will help you understand more about habits so that it will be much easier for you to change a bad habit, permanently.
What is a habit?
In order to move forward with taking steps to break a bad habit for good, you will need to have a good understanding of what a habit is. According to the dictionary, a habit is a pattern of behavior (the way you think, feel, and act) that is created by frequent repetition or physiological exposure and it tends to occur subconsciously.
This is important because remember when I said that habits help us save time? Well for survival, the body likes to run like a well oiled machine so it wants to do things efficiently. When you start to do things repeatedly or act a certain way time after time, the brain puts that function on autopilot so that it is able to do these things on autopilot without you having to take the time to think about it. Like a self-driving car almost. The brain uses up a lot of energy and this helps you save time and energy and this is what allows your brain functions to move onto things that need more of your concentration.
This is good for you when it comes to making sure your heart beats or you take a breath. Putting these things in the control of your subconscious (something you don’t have to be aware of) means you don’t have to remember these things — If you forget, you die. This is not good, however, if the habits that you’ve adopted are things you would like to change.
How are habits formed?
I’ve already spoken a bit about how habits form via repetitive behavior patterns but let’s dive a little deeper into the biology of habit formation. I will try to keep it as simple as possible. It is scientifically proven that your brain is shaped by your life experiences. Scientists call this neuroplasticity.
When you do these repeated behaviors, your brain starts to form connections between brain cells called neural pathways, think of them initially as dirt roads. Depending on how long the behaviors are repeated, if you do something for long enough these pathways become more hard wired, like a paved road instead of a dirt road. Once that happens, signals between these nerve cells can fire off more efficiently and more automatically. When this happens, it becomes harder to correct a habit that you would like to change.
How to change a bad habit to a good habit
So, check this out, on a simple level, to change a bad habit, you have to stop doing the bad habit. That pathway (AKA “road”) stops being used and crumbles up and deteriorates. Because the universe doesn’t like to operate in a vacuum (yeah, I had to throw some spiritual stuff in the mix but it’s also physics so stick with me), the easiest way to create a new habit though, is not just by stopping the bad habit, it’s replacing it with a good habit. Otherwise, your nature will be more resistant to changing the bad habit to avoid a void where the old habit used to be.
Creating new habits and substituting them for the bad habit causes two things to happen at the same time and prevents the void. You end up building new neural pathways from the repetition of the new habit (which will make it easier the longer you do it), and the old habit pathways deteriorate until they are less active or totally inactive.
Most people only look at changing bad habits as a behavioral change, but the reason why it may be hard to change a bad habit into a good one is because it’s also biological, you have to understand how long this process will take. While this transition is happening, you will need to rely on your self discipline, but the cool thing is that now that you know this, you understand why you may have failed in the past but you know that you just need to get over the hump and this can be smooth sailing. So let’s talk about how to get over the hump. Also, make sure you check out this free guide that I have to help you with discipline during this period of change.
How long will it take to break a bad habit?
Estimating how long it will take to break a bad habit is a twofold process. First of all, it can happen immediately. This could be what we sometimes call cold turkey and all you need to do is make the decision to change, and as long as you stick with it, you don’t look back. But… Now that you understand the biology of change, you can understand why this could be harder for people that don’t have the discipline to get through the time it takes to erode the neural pathways of the old, bad habit.
So, we need to examine the time it takes to either kill the neural pathway or create the new one or do both simultaneously. This is where science varies, depending on the behavior and how deeply formed it is, it can happen as fast as a little over 2 weeks or on average for some more deeply ingrained behaviors, 3–6 months.
As a side note, I hope this helps you understand that when you want to work with me as your coach and mentor, I will not work with private coaching clients for less than 3 months. As a certified life coach and master mindset coach, there is science to support the way that I coach my clients and do it in a way that creates LASTING results. This is also why coaching is very valuable if you want to make positive changes in life. As your coach, I can help you get on track and stay on track so that you can, successfully, take steps forward and never look back. That support is important during this phase. You know… you’ve probably tried and failed to do this on your own many times. Nevertheless, here are some tips you can try to break bad habits.
Tips to help you break a bad habit
- Change your self concept- Your self concept is a set of beliefs about yourself that you’ve come up with thus far in life. It’s been proven that if you want to make the fastest and longest lasting changes, change the way you identify yourself. You hear me say shift your identity a lot. If you think, feel, and act a certain way now, what if you looked at yourself as someone that never had the habit you have or were able to overcome it. How do you think that person is thinking, feeling, and acting in regards to the things you want to change. Start to identify yourself as that type of person.
- Use a tracker- A good way to keep yourself on track is to measure your success (and reward yourself along the way for your progress). A habit tracker is a visual tool that can show you how far you’ve come. It can be motivating to cross stuff off in your tracker and it can also show you that you need to get your butt in gear if you see empty spaces on your habit tracker. I have a free one along with some additional resources that you can get, just click here or click the picture at the end of this article for more free resources to help you change your bad habits for good.
- Start small- A couple of weeks ago, I started a daily livestream book study on the book Atomic Habits. This is one of the best books that I know to help you change bad habits if you want to try to do it on your own. There are over 2 weeks of replays where I coach you through the concepts of the book and I would love for you to join me. I go live weekdays on my Instagram so follow me over there!
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Hi. I’m Yashica, founder of Yashica’s Intuition. I created my company because after I had to rebuild my life after it all fell apart, I noticed that there was a gap in society when it came to teaching us how to connect to our inner self and our intuition. I wanted to inspire those that want more out of life to feel empowered. I strive to educate about intellectual personal development (the science) and the spiritual, intuitive connection because rarely do we combine the two, but they are what we need to become our most powerful version of ourselves. Oftentimes the focus is only on one or the other, but I feel like that is a source for a lot of struggle and pain. Learning to combine the two is how you unlock the power to improve every area of your life from your mindset to your finances, relationships, career, mental health, and more.
I have devoted my whole life to improving myself. I am an Executive Level RN. I also am a certified life coach, a master mindset coach, a certified tarot reader, a reiki master, and an astrologer. I want to share my system for success with you. Want to learn how to work with me? Book a free consultation.