How To Break a Bad Habit

Humans are, by design, creatures of habit. Our thoughts frequently follow well-worn patterns, which can sometimes feel impossible to change. We can, however, re-program our brains any time we choose.


Patterns = Habits

Humans are, by design, creatures of habit. Our thoughts feed the brain, which is our internal controlling and guiding mechanism. A natural function of the brain is to find and learn patterns from what we see, hear, do—and especially, what we think. Like our internal organs and skin, the brain is
in a constant state of renewal.

According to
  • What you use grows stronger.
  • This is as true for the brain as for physical muscles, and is called neuroplasticity.
  • With repeated use, a thought, mood, or emotional state becomes a ‘habit’.
  • The habit grows into a trait; a trait becomes a constant state.

An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.


 Habits Come In All Forms

There are good habits and not-so-good habits. I'm not going to preach at you about particular well-known bad habits or addictions that some of you may have. You know what they are, and if you are reading this article right now, I think we can both agree that there is a place inside you at this very moment that would like to change that habitual pattern you've created.

For me, one of the hardest habits to break was smoking cigarettes. I know, everyone says it's the most difficult thing they've ever done. Every bit of that statement is true for me, as well. I smoked for nearly 20 years. Like many others, I probably "quit" at least five or six times before I really quit. Even after the first two years, I would find myself overcome with an insatiable craving for a cigarette. I would be fine the majority of the time, and then out of the clear blue, I found myself draped in a dark, impulsive pull to smoke a cigarette. In those moments, I couldn't think of anything else. That is how powerful a cigarette addiction can be. And I'm willing to bet that that is how powerful any addiction can be; because the mind is a powerful thing.

People can be addicted to all sorts of things, not just drugs and alcohol. There can be addictions to certain behaviors. If you are doing something that you know is not healthy for you (including habits of negative thinking), yet you continue to do it even though you know you shouldn't, you are addicted. At some point in your life, you had created this unhealthy pattern, which grew into a habit, which morphed into a trait.

It's okay.

Every day is an opportunity to start anew. Every moment is a new moment to make a different choice.

I say “out” to every negative thought that comes to my mind. No person, place, or thing has any power over me, for I am the only thinker in my mind. I create my own reality and everyone in it.
— Louise L. Hay

The Good News

The good news is that each day is a new day to begin again. Since the brain reacts to exactly what we tell it to, with self-patience and persistence, we can re-create our patterns. While breaking any habit (especially habits that have existed for years, decades, or even a lifetime) can seem impossible, it isn't.

It simply boils down to you making your mind up, once and for all, that today is the day that you will make better choices. One choice at a time. If you are not convinced in your mind that you are going to change your habits, you won't.
Lasting change begins in your mind.

It's Time For A Positive Change, and it Begins with a Positive Thought.

Replacing The Old With The New

You know how some people say that the best way to get over an ex-love is to get under a new one? I'm not trying to be coy here; there is some truth to that, and it works in a similar way to break bad habits.

If you want to break a habit, you need to find something to replace it. If it is a physical addiction like cigarettes, candy mints or fireballs are an excellent tool. Popping a candy every time you're hit with a sensation. If it is a habit of negative thinking, then positive thinking is where it's at. If you find that you're putting yourself down again, immediately counteract that thought with a positive one, like, I am strong, beautiful and blessed. There are a million examples we could go into with this, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying.

Each time the negative pattern arises, you need to replace it with something more positive. Every single time. In the beginning, the idea of this simple technique will seem absurd and impossible. I promise that if you stick with it, push through the temptations and anxiety, and force yourself to self-correct, each and every time, that your efforts will pay off. The more you do this, the easier it will become. Until one day the negative pattern/habit doesn't even enter your mind.

You see, by feeding the negative impulse with a positive, you are teaching your brain to want the positive instead. Over time, your brain will have re-wired itself to crave the positive input.

All things are difficult before they are easy.
— Chinese Proverb

Falling Down

Be patient with yourself. Know that you will fall, we all do. What is important is that you acknowledge that you had a moment of weakness, and forgive yourself. Anyone trying to break an addiction falls down. Realize this and accept that this is an expected part of the process. It's okay. Every person that has succeeded in overcoming their own shortcomings and addictions has fallen in the process.

Get back up immediately, dust yourself off, and when the next moment arises, you replace that negative action with a positive one. The most important thing to remember and do is to FORGIVE yourself. It is a lack of self-forgiveness that allows people to fall back into their old patterns. Then they find themselves sinking into an even deeper depression than they were before.

If you're going through hell, keep going.
— Winston Churchill
If you're waiting for a sign, THIS IS IT.

Positive Thought and Programming

Regardless as to what your bad habit may be, positive affirmation is a must. If you honestly want to change your life for the better, it has to start in your mind, with your thoughts. Start listening to audio meditations and affirmations (there are plenty available for free on sites like youtube). I've included a great video on positive thinking (below), along with a few inspirational sayings (scattered throughout this article).

Just remember, you are not alone. You can find others going through exactly the same thing as you by either searching online or joining a local support group. You can find a virtual community or an in-person community. Either way, there is power in numbers and a certain comfort from talking about your weakest moments with others who understand where you are coming from. Put yourself out there—find your people.

Feed your mind with love and strength.

It's hard to beat a person that never gives up.
— Babe Ruth

Positive Thoughts and Affirmations

Images Courtesy of

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