Break Bad Habits With These Two Mental Tricks

Bad habits. We all have them, and they suck.

Most of us feel powerless when we think about our bad habits. Trying to change your negative habits can feel like you are in locked in the backseat of a car, being driven around by two toddlers, one working the steering wheel and the other pushing the pedals.

In a real sense, you ARE out of control, experiencing whiplash and awaiting the oncoming crash. Sounds dramatic, but the reality is that our habits define our lives. A micro habit can steer us closer to our idealized self, or it can push us off course, causing us to regret our choice to surrender to our bad habits.

There has been some amazing work done around breaking bad habits and creating good habits. I value the information and ideas that others have created, consider following them on social or buying their books.

The Quick and Dirty on Breaking Bad Habits

In grad school, we study something called therapeutic interventions.
Basically, an intervention is a unique method or manner of helping someone shift a mental block. Interventions are designed to help a person see their life/problems in a new way, and as a result, experience personal change.

Some interventions are complicated, and others are easy. They can seem counter intuitive and at times, comical. Try the following two mental tricks to help break your bad habits.

Two Ways to Break Bad Habits

Paradox (more of the same)

The paradox intervention is popular in Family Therapy and is based on increasing the frequency of the unwanted behavior. For example, a couple comes into counseling because they cannot stop fighting. A potential intervention might be to assign MORE fighting. Scheduling it for Thursday evening, from 7 pm to 8 pm, the couple will be required to be present and start fighting for the next hour. (Obviously this method is not to be used for things that can be physically dangerous, specifically cutting, drugging, bingeing, purging, etc.)

Ultimately, using this intervention can be the slice of reality that is needed, the scheduled fight night seems ridiculous and the couple agrees to move toward compromise. When a behavior that is thought of as involuntary is prescribed as voluntary, a feeling of mental empowerment can occur. By creating a “schedule” for this bad habit, you realize that you do have significant control over your behavior.

How to use the Paradox strategy to break a bad habit? Schedule more of the bad habit. Want to stop swearing? Force yourself to swear more! Schedule an hour to talk out loud to yourself, making sure you use loads of the language that you want to eliminate. Speak every thought that runs thru your mind, lace it with profanity and for extra credit, use the voice memo app on your phone.

Later, take some time and listen to yourself speaking. Then ask yourself, is the person I want to sound like? Is this the person I want my kids/family/colleagues to hear? Evaluate and make your desired changes.

Maybe you decide to stop dropping f bombs. You make a micro choice to eliminate that word from your menu of cussing. Controlling your language for a set period will give you a sense of personal accomplishment, reinforcing the reality that you do have choice and control over how you present yourself in conversations.

Why “More of the Same” Works

The Paradoxical method works because it is comical and saturating. Increasing the unwanted behavior feels ridiculous and forces you to realize that your actions are generally voluntary, it is within your control. Once you accept that you do have control, you can begin to make the changes that you desire and master your bad habits.

The Miracle Question

The Miracle Question Intervention is taken from the therapeutic field of Solution Focused Therapy. This type of therapy is designed to be brief and effective with a smaller time investment. It uses the power of imagination and fantasy control to help the client discover what they need to help change their life. It is amazing potential to help you break your annoying bad habits.

How to use this to break a bad habit? Ask yourself the Miracle Question:
Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you wake tomorrow, what things would you be able to notice that told you that your life had gotten better?

Asking yourself this question, no limits on reality requirements, helps you identify clues that can lead you down a path of small steps that will eventually break a bad habit. For example: If I woke up and had an extra $500.00 in my checking account, I would know a miracle occurred. Okay, great! You now have a starting point to break the bad habit of overspending.

The Miracle Steps to End Bad Habits

So, what steps are needed to create a $500.00 surplus in your checking account? The big answer is stop overspending- BUT- we already know that answer. We are looking for small steps, micro choices that will help overthrow the larger problem of limited financial self-control.

For example: If I woke up with $500.00 extra dollars in my account, it would mean that I had mastered control over my bad habit of excessive spending on my knitting hobby. What would my miracle steps look like?

First, I know that if I could find patterns to use up the yarn I already own, I would stay out of the yarn store more often. Potential solutions would be join the knitting online community Raverly, asking my FB knit group friends for patterns to share, looking on the internet for designers that have free patterns, etc.

Next, I would search for groups that support the reduce, reuse, recycle lifestyle. Making friends with similar desires will help me feel normal, encouraging me to adhere to my frugal, environmentally wise goal. Being supported by a group of people with a similar mindset will help fuel my contentment and thereby reduce my bad habit of buying yarn as retail therapy.

See how the Miracle Question works? It gives you the freedom to create a path forward to the BIG goal- breaking a bad habit, or creating a life you love- you have the answers, now you create the micro stepping stones to your desired outcome.

Since you have entered the “Miracle Zone” there are no limits on what can be done to move you toward your goal. When you remove the blockages by using fantasy, it helps you create new solutions and identify unexplored options to help you break the bad habit.

Simple and Effective Mental Tricks Can Break Bad Habits

Therapeutic interventions can be simple and effective. There are many ways to encourage a person to make a mindset shift. Some are complicated and require mastery of the therapeutic field. But if you have a bad habit to break, these methods will help you take steps to take control over your bad habits.

There is no try- there is only DO!

Try using either method above, Paradoxical (more of the same) and The Miracle Question. Let me know how it is working for you, I care about creating content that helps you to create healthy change in your life. Email me at midlifeismagical(at) to share your success story!

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