How to Unlearn Bad Habits
Written by Farah Farhat
Habits Habits Habits…
some break us and some make us!
Do you have bad habits you cannot break?
Do you want to learn some good ones?
This is the blog for you!
First of all, let me tell you how bad habits develop! Refer to the chart below to track where you are right now with the habits that are hindering your academic progress or overall happiness!
The cue is anything that triggers your brain to begin wanting to do a particular behaviour in order to be rewarded. Perhaps the reward is money or food, or maybe it is a good grade on a midterm. Your brain will want to get those rewards, and as a result, craving begins!
Craving is what motivates you to begin or continue to do a certain habit. Smokers, for example, crave nicotine because, after a while, their cells become programmed to believe nicotine is the only way they can function normally. In this case, the reward is normal cell functioning!! Another simpler and more common example is when you open Netflix. You don’t want to open Netflix, what you really want is to be entertained, and in this case, entertainment is the reward that you crave.
The third stage is your response, and that is the habit that you are currently stuck with. You are probably at this stage right now if you’re reading this blog. This response could happen frequently or even occasionally, and that is completely dependent on your external and internal environment and how motivated you are to achieve the reward that you crave.
And at last, the awaited reward. The ending that could either teach us a very difficult lesson, satisfy our craving, or both!
Now, let me fill that chart for you with a habit all of us have.
And that cycle repeats itself again and again. The endless feedback loop is actively running, even while you are reading this blog.
So now that you understand the science behind a bad habit, how do you combat it?
1. Define the habit and be aware of its consequences.
Do you want to stop that bad nail-biting habit of yours? Great! You know that it’s bad, and that’s the first step. But do you know what triggers it? Observe yourself the next time you bite your nails. Is it during an exam? Is it before you meet with a professor? Find how it developed and be conscious of those unconscious habits you seldom notice about yourself, and that is how you pass the first step of breaking a bad habit with flying colours!
2. Deal with the triggers
Okay. So you realized that writing exams and studying make you bite your nails, what do you do now? The solution is to deal with the triggers and reminding yourself that nail-biting is wrong. Find a way to substitute that habit with something that could make you feel a lot better and remind yourself to relax and take a few minutes of deep breathing. It takes a person an average of 21 days to either create or lose a habit, so this will take you time, but time and strength are all you need!
3. Develop a substitute plan
Dealing with a bad habit does not end when you stop the habit, but when you substitute it with something that is better. When you notice a pattern in your habits and get support from others, you will find ways to substitute your bad habit with a good one. In this simple example that I gave you in this blog, it could be meditating or exercising. If you have a bad habit of not sleeping well or spending too much online, try to substitute these habits by waking up early so that your body gets tired earlier. You can also turn off your phone when you study, to help ensure efficiency.
4. Stay determined
The last and final way to deal with your habits is to stay determined. Unfortunately, the human body does not have a switch button to let it stop or avoid certain behaviours, so it will take you time to teach your body not to do the things that your mind wants it to do, even if it knows better. As long as you stay adamant about eliminating that bad habit, you will be able to unlearn it at your own pace and in your own ways.