Two Simple Ways To Break Bad Habits
Are you looking for quick and easy ways to break bad habits? Friend, I got you!
Bad habits. Meh. We all have them, and they suck!
Bad habits can keep us feeling stagnant in our daily lives. Everyone wants to find ways to break bad habits, mainly because we spend a tremendous amount of energy feeling frustrated about them! Bad habits are behavior cycles that have become a fixed part of our lives. For some of us, bad habits are an annoying part of our daily routine.
What To Do When You Feel Stagnant and Stuck In Bad Habits
Sometimes, we are stuck in bad habits because our brain is lazy. Have you ever heard that your brain is lazy? It’s true! Our brain uses about 320 calories a day as we think and solve problems in our daily lives.
We all know modern living is much safer and easier than in ancient cultures. Originally, our brain had the important job of keeping us safe and alive. Food choices, angry people, and hungry animals were all part of the daily obstacle course for our brains.
Are Bad Habits A Sign Of Laziness?
As a result, our brains are wired to choose activities and behaviors that require lower levels of energy. It reserves larger amounts of energy for life-saving activities, like running from a lion or hiding from the really angry next-door neighbors. When we create habits, our brain keeps that extra energy that might be used for decision-making or choice analysis.
We get a safe outcome, and the brain gets to save its energy for more complex tasks. That is why it is so difficult to break bad habits; our brain loves routine! Even if the routine is unhealthy or even painful, the brain will resist the effort to change. Combine that with the negative emotions that keep us feeling fatigued and it is no surmise that breaking bad habits feels impossible!
Bad Habits Can Affect Your Mental Health
Because our brain is biased to conserve energy and effort, it can be very difficult to stop bad habits permanently. Some of our bad habits are “stacked” – one bad habit leads to the next, making it even harder to change the behavior!
Do Your Bad Habits Make You Feel Stuck?
Most of us feel powerless when we think about our bad habits. Trying to change your negative habits can feel like you are 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!
Any type of personal 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.
Creating Better Habits Is A Popular Research Topic
There has been some amazing work done around breaking bad habits and creating good habits. In my personal opinion, the top name for research on breaking and creating habits is James Clear. His book, “Atomic Habits” takes you on a detailed tour of your brain and why habits can be so hard to break.
This article will be focusing on a different way to break bad habits. We are going to attack bad habits using two different types of methods that are often found in family therapy. Don’t worry, these two habit busters are designed for you to use on your own or with a partner if needed.
Overcoming Bad Habits
When I was in grad school last year, we studied 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 counterintuitive and, at times, stupidly hilarious! Interventions are designed to help our brains break out of bad habits and unhealthy patterns. The most successful bad habit breakers tend to be fairly simple and easy to remember. The more complicated something is, the lazier our brain will be!
Bad Habits Can Make Us Feel Uncomfortable
Our brain does not like feeling uncomfortable or confused. So, if you want new ways to break bad habits, commit yourself to feeling some negative emotions, bad habits can keep you stuck, feeling stagnant and anxious to move forward. Sometimes, our bad habits are a learned behavior, often from our early childhood. We might have bad habits that are a direct result of generational dysfunction in our families.
How To Fix Bad Habits
Fixing bad habits requires one thing. It requires the decision to change! I know it seems stupidly simple, but the reality is when we are ready for change, it arrives. Sometimes, it’s as easy as not buying potato chips, knowing that you will eat them with all the vigor of a wood chipper (relatable?) And in other instances, fixing bad habits might need the help of a mental health professional.
No matter what type of bad habit you are struggling with, there is always hope and help waiting for you. Fixing your bad habits might be easier than you expect. It requires a decision to take action and an ounce of determination to get started. We get excited seeing momentum building as we work on positive life changes.
Try These Ideas To Get Rid Of Bad Habits
As a trained Marriage and Family therapist, I want to share some of the “insider secrets” to breaking bad habits permanently. The two methods discussed in this article are free and straightforward. The only cost is your focused commitment to change!
Let me warn you: Be prepared for some low-grade frustration at first when you attempt to use these solutions.
Stick with your commitment to fix your bad habits, even if it feels silly or exhausting at times. We all struggle with change; our brain wants to keep us in a routine pattern to conserve energy. Choosing to step outside of our learned behaviors and confront our fears will be scary, but it is the only way to create change.
Try the following two mental tricks to help break your bad habits. Take the ideas seriously, but allow yourself to have fun changing how you think!
Two Simple And Effective Ways To Break Bad Habits
Paradox (also called: 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. What the heck?
We can’t stop fighting, so we increase the amount of fighting?!? That sounds bananas!
Scheduling it for Thursday evening, from 7 pm to 8 pm, the couple will be required to be in a room together and start fighting for the next hour. (Obviously, this method is not to be used for things that can be physically dangerous, explicitly cutting, drugging, bingeing, purging, etc.) When they return to therapy the following week, they will have to report if they kept their “fighting schedule” as required.
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.Midlife Is Magical
By creating a “schedule” for this bad habit, you realize you have significant control over your behavior.
How Long Does It Take To Get Rid Of A Bad Habit?
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 through 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 drop that word from your menu of cussing. Controlling your language for a set period will give you a sense of personal accomplishment. It will reinforce 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. Despite what you say, the undesirable behavior is within your control. Once you accept that you do have control, you can begin to make the changes that you desire and fix your bad habits.
When Life Feels Stagnant, Use The Miracle Question To Move Forward
The Miracle Question Intervention is taken from the therapeutic field of solution-focused therapy. This type of therapy is designed to be brief and practical with a smaller time investment.
It uses the power of imagination and fantasy control to help people discover what they need to help change their life. It has 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.
Stopping Bad Habits With The Miracle Question Method
So, what steps are needed to create a $500.00 surplus in your checking account? The big answer is to 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?
The Miracle Question Encourages You To Use Your Imagination
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 to join the free online knitting community Raverly, ask my FB knit group friends for patterns to share, look on the internet for designers that have free patterns, etc. I would list all the ideas that would help me get closer to my goal.
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, and now you create the micro steppingstones 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.
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 of your bad habits.
Try using either method above, Paradoxical (more of the same) and The Miracle Question to finally break your bad habits. Remember, the most important part of breaking bad habits is your commitment to feeling uncomfortable during the process. Making the decision to change, no matter how long it takes, is the powerful foundation you need for long-term success.
If you are struggling with more complicated issues like addiction or compulsive behavior, please contact a licensed counselor or therapist in your community.
If you need help solving problems or breaking bad habits, I can help! I am a trained Marriage and Family Therapist and I offer individual coaching for my private clients. Most of my clients were looking for someone who had a “no BS” approach to helping folks create life changes.
If that sounds like something you need, feel free to email me (the link is at the bottom of this page), and let’s talk about how I can help you create change!
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.