The Secret to Conquering Bad Habits? Replacing Them with Good Ones

Michael Butler
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Building a Positive Habit is More Fun than Wrestling with Bad One

Good intentions don’t always translate into positive behaviors, even when we really want them to.

Most people typically set goals in an attempt to stop doing something, such as eating junk food or wasting time on Facebook. This self-improvement strategy is commonly called “cutting out” or “giving up.” Unfortunately, studies show that these goals rarely work and the people who try them fail at a high rate.

The reason that cutting out doesn’t work is that and it makes you feel bad. You usually end up feeling like you’re failing or that you’re not strong enough. This feeling is depressing and it makes you want to overeat or spend more time on Facebook.

The alternative is to replace a bad habit with a good one. This is recovery is better than trying to cut out.

What works is to focus on establishing the new good habit. Focus on the good feeling you’ll get from doing the new thing. For example, you can ensure a feelgood factor by rewarding yourself with a piece of chocolate after a run or a glass of wine after persevering at work.

What happens when you set your mind to it is that you experience something positive and then gain the confidence to continue it.

In Closing

One of the biggest struggles with obesity and dieting has always been this: How do you kick your bad habits when the thought of even starting to replace them with good ones, even temporarily, is too much to bear?

Exercise is one of the secrets to overcoming bad habits. When you start exercising, you create a strong association between your workout and the bad habit that you’re trying to conquer. Just thinking about your bad habit can remind you of the habit you’re trying to break.

Exercise is just one of many strategies to help you break your bad habits. If you’re really struggling to make this work for you, check out some of the Greatist articles on activities and exercises you can do…for free. You might just find a few more tricks that will help you along the way.

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Counting calories, setting alarms, and tracking your running distance can lead you to your best results. But today’s habit-breakers take a different approach. Rather than trying to monitor everything they do, they look at what they do habitually and replace negative habits with good habits that are easier to maintain.

This is what author Charles Duhigg discusses in his 2014 book The Power of Habit: Why Our Habits Don’t Alw…