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It’s a Hard Habit to Break

By Dr. Michelle P. MaidenbergĀ 

We can all relate to having bad habits that are difficult to break. To name a few, our habits can take the form of smoking, overeating, cursing, nail biting, procrastinating or drinking too much coffee/caffeine.

You might have tried quick fixes such as going cold turkey or trying to manage how often you engage in the bad habit (e.g., only drinking coffee twice a day instead of three times). These are short-term resolutions that often fail. What do we need to do to successfully break these annoying habits for the long-term?


Here are some 5 essential steps:


1. Acknowledge Your Habit and Commit to Personal Growth.
Most people have a hard time admitting it is a problem for them and express that they can presumably stop any time they want to. Commit to getting to know yourself better and acknowledge your struggle.
2. Commit to Two Months and Start Small.
Change does NOT happen overnight! You may fall off the wagon but keep your head up high and try again. Set up clear, identifiable, and realistic goals so you do not set your self up for disappointment and failure.
3. Identify Triggers.
Identify the trigger that prompts you to engage in the habit. For example, if you bite your nails when you approach a new social situation due self-induced stress, be hypersensitive that you are at high risk when approaching your next new social situation and take the necessary precautions to avoid or substitute your habit.
4. Find a Substitute — Replace Your Loss.
Your habit fulfills needs. If caffeine was used as a mechanism to make you feel awake and energized, replace it by committing yourself to getting more sleep and exercising which would serve the same purpose and be more productive.
5. Get Support — You Deserve It!
This could be accomplished through going to individual and/or group therapy, writing in a journal, speaking with a person you trust, or finding someone with the same habit that could join you on the quest to break the habit.