How To Break A Bad Habit With 7 Helpful Tips

If you have some eccentricities and addictions, then you may be wondering if it is possible to find ways break a bad habit. We all do things we don't necessarily want to do, whether it's biting our nails or not drinking enough water. Sometimes these habits seem small, and don't really affect our lives too much. While other times, they can become all-consuming. Either way, it is possible to take steps to change yourself for the better.

Some habits follow us around since childhood, like that pesky nail biting. Other habits we pick up along the way, like smoking or relying too much on caffeine. Regardless of whether it's new or old, it's still possible to break a bad habit.

It's also possible to break a bad habit regardless of it's complexity. Sometimes habits can seem relatively benign (like popping your gum), while others are downright dangerous (like smoking a pack a day). Regardless of it's magnitude, any habit that bothers you or affects your health is worth stopping.

But as we all know, habits are incredibly difficult to break. And according to a study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this is because habits become literally rooted in our brains. "Habitual activity — smoking, eating fatty foods, gambling —changes neural activity patterns in a specific region of the brain when habits are formed. These neural patterns created by habit can be changed or altered. But when a stimulus from the old days returns, the dormant pattern can reassert itself ... putting an individual in a neural state akin to being on autopilot," said Michael Kanellos for CNet.com.

Basically, if you give up cigarettes, all it takes it one peak at the stuff to send you right back. It can make quitting a bad habit quite difficult, but it doesn't mean it's impossible. If you have a bad habit you've been trying to break, then take a look at the list below for some ways to end it once and for all.

1. Become Hyper Aware Of Your Habit

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Bad habits are just that — habits, which means we do them without thinking. It often takes an annoyed friend or a dirty look from a stranger before we realize we're doing something obnoxious, like sitting there popping gum like a teenager in an '80s movie. Being aware of your habit is the first step in breaking it.

2. Dig Down To The Root Of The Problem

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Once you're aware of your habit, it's then time to figure out why you do it in the first place, according to an article by Denise Mann for WebMD. The next time you are tapping your foot or pining away for a cigarette, stop and ponder what's provoking the feeling. Are you stressed out, bored, or tired? Figuring out your feelings, and then fixing the underlying cause (like managing your stress, or getting more sleep) can help break you of your bad habit.

3. Find A Way Around Your Habit

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I used to bite my nails all day, every day. If there was a bit of jagged nail, or some cuticle sticking out, I'd chomp away until my fingers hurt. I tried everything to break my habit, from painting my nails to spraying on bitter tasting anti-nail-biting spray. Nothing worked. So I finally decided to cut my nails short, and I've kept them that way ever since. I think my nails look nice and neat when they're short. And with no unevenness to bite off, I've completely broken myself of the desire, and hardly pay attention to my nails anymore. Try, try, and try again until you find something that works for you.

4. Clean Up Your Life

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Clean up your apartment, and get rid of all the things that feed into your bad habit. If you are trying to break yourself of late night snacking, for example, then don't keep a bunch of junk food lying around. Or, if you are trying to spend less time on your phone, make an effort to leave it in a different room. It can sometimes be as simple as "out of sight, out of mind."

5. Get Some Support, Because It Can Be Tough Going It Alone

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If you're really having a tough time with it, then call in some extra support from friends and family. This can be necessary for breaking more difficult habits, like smoking. Talking to a friend can offer a bit of distraction while the craving passes.

6. Give Yourself Plenty Of Time

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Everyone's heard the old adage that is takes 21 days to break a habit (or form a new one), but that isn't necessarily true. According to a study at the University College London, it took test subjects, on average, 66 days to adjust to a new habit, such as jogging or eating fruit every day. Some more easily persuaded participants only took 18 days (well, aren't they great?), while others took well over 200 days. Remember this the next time you feel bad for struggling with the change.

7. Don't Fret If You Mess Up

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The University College London study dispelled the idea that habits take 21 days to break. It's just simply not that easy! But the study also showed that messing up for a day or two doesn't mean you should give up. "Another myth undermined by the study is the idea that when forming a new habit, you can't miss a day or all is lost: missing a day made no difference," writes Oliver Burkeman for The Guardian. "Indeed, believing this myth may be actively unhelpful, making it harder to restart once you fall off the wagon." If you quit eating chocolate for a week, and then go hog wild on the weekend, don't act like all is lost. Recognize that change is hard and get right back to it the next day.

Whether it's small (like biting your nails) or big (like smoking) it is still possible to break yourself of a bad habit. Give yourself time, get some support, and don't worry if you mess up along the way.

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