How to break a bad habit

Bad habits. We all have them, whether we like to admit it or not. For me, it’s being impatient at times, while for you, it could be something totally different. Biting your nails, doing things last minute, not having a regular sleep schedule, and being unorganized are all examples of different bad habits you can have. When looking at bad habits, the question we should ask ourselves is how to get rid of them, or rather replace them with a good habit in return. Before you learn how to break bad habits, it is important to understand what a habit is and how it is formed.

What is a habit?

“A habit is a behavioural pattern acquired by frequent repetition of physiologic exposure that shows itself regularly or increased facility of performance”.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In short, a habit is a behavioural pattern that occurs through constant repetition of the act. Through constant repetition, we start to subconsciously partake in the habit. Various studies have shown that it can take months to break a bad habit. However, if you follow certain steps, you can achieve success within thirty days.

Step 1: Identify what provokes your bad habit

As mentioned earlier, habits are created through repeated patterns in your routine. The first step to breaking a bad habit is identifying what triggers it, so you can make moves to correct it. Questions to ask yourself are: “Where does this habit happen?”, “What time of day does it take place?”, “How do you feel when it happens?”, etc. It is also important to note that habits can’t exactly be eliminated because they are there for a reason. Once you understand what triggers your bad habit, you will have to come up with an alternative habit to replace it. 

For example, if the bad habit you want to break is procrastination, you must learn to understand what causes it. For instance, a reason you may be procrastinating is because when you are working, you are faced with distractions. Now that you understand what triggers the habit, you can come up with ways around it. You will also be able to think of a different habit to replace it with. In this case, it might be something along the lines of coming up with strategies to be more productive.

Step 2: Change your environment

The environment you are in can have a big impact on the patterns and practices you take part in. Therefore, the second step to breaking a bad habit is to change your surroundings. Going back to the previous example, if you find that you are procrastinating because you often get distracted by your phone, start to study in a room without your phone. This will help eliminate the distraction and put you on the right track for productivity. Changing your environment is also not limited to a certain location. If you find that other people are influencing you into partaking in your bad habit, try distancing yourself from them.

Step 3: Keep yourself motivated

Breaking a bad habit is by no means an easy thing to do. It is important that you acknowledge this and work to keep yourself motivated. Through motivation and setting reachable goals, you will boost your confidence and increase your drive to keep performing. Self-care is also critical when it comes to breaking a bad habit. Prioritizing your mental and physical wellness will give you the strength to work towards breaking your bad habit(s). If you are in a state of being where you are feeling very stressed, it will be harder for you to break your habit(s) as you already have a lot on your plate.

Step 4: Know it is okay to seek guidance

Lastly, it is significant to recognize that you don’t have to go about breaking your habit on your own. Having support from those around you will further encourage you to reach your goals. It may also help you feel less alone in your journey, adding an extra sense of comfort. You can also get help from a medical professional if you feel that the bad habit is hard for you to reign control over on your own. Some bad habits are deeper rooted through trauma and negative experiences. In this case, it may be better for you to contact a medical professional to receive guidance and extra support. 

Your journey of breaking a bad habit will look completely different from another individual trying to accomplish the same thing. If you follow the steps and guidelines listed above, you will be able to come up with a plan that will help lead you on the right track to overcoming your bad habits.

Works cited

Clear, James. “How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It with a Good One.” James Clear, 4 Feb. 2020,

D’Avella, Matt. “Courses.” Slow Growth Academy, 2020,

Edugage. “What Is a Habit? (Definition, Facts & Guide).” Edugage, 19 Feb. 2019,

Raypole, Crystal. “How to Break a Habit: 15 Tips for Success.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Oct. 2019,

White, Mary Gormandy. “List of Humanity’s Most Common Bad Habits.” Examples, 2021,