Step #1: Acknowledge The Bad Habits
If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t have one bad habit to your name, not a single annoying vice or quirky tick, then you’ve got a bigger problem to deal with. The first step in taking control of anything, whether it be bad habits or dieting, is admitting the problem. So take a good look at yourself and find out what your bad habit is. Chances are people already tell you to stop smacking your lips, biting your nails, tapping your fingers on a desk, chewing on a pen, spitting in public, smoking cigarettes, eating all their candy…the list, most certainly, goes on and on. If it’s annoying to you, annoying to others, and destructive in one way or another, then chances are it’s a bad habit that you need to break.
While you’re doing some introspection, you might realize that you have not one, not two, but several bad habits. Welcome to the human race, my friend. However, it’s important to focus on one bad habit at a time. While you might be able to multitask at work, trying to control several annoyances can become distracting and exhausting. Instead, make a list of all your bad habits and order them by priority. If biting your nails has become a serious problem and your fingers are constantly sore and you’ve ruined a business meeting or two by spitting out dead skin and nail, then make that your first goal. Once you’ve got one under control, then you can focus on your next bad habit.
Step #2: Be Aware Of Your Bad Habit
While you might have already acknowledged your bad habit, you need to stay conscious of it every single day. Many people are aware that their finger-tapping or loud gum chewing is annoying, but they don’t realize when they’re actually doing it. Therefore, to really start controlling your bad habit, you have to know when it happens. However, bad habits are unconscious. We take to our nails and pens without thinking about it. So how do we keep an eye on things? Simple. Make as many reminders as possible. Set alarms on your cell phone to beep every hour and check if you’ve done your bad habit or are in the process of performing your bad habit. Write sticky notes to yourself, keep a string tied around your finger, and even enlist the help of friends, family, and co-workers to keep an eye on you during the day. We all have pet peeves that we’re willing to deny and hide, but when it comes to someone else picking at their scabs, we’re more than ready to tell them off.
As you start to notice when your bad habit happens, you can start to figure out why it happens. This is an important part to curbing your problem because you can identify the triggers. If you find that you’re chewing on pens during meetings, then perhaps it’s your release when you’re bored. If you happen to bite your nails while waiting for an appointment or an important call, then anxiety could very well be your trigger. Addressing the trigger is just as important as addressing the habit, itself.
Step #3: Find A Suitable Replacement
Hopefully by now you’ve begun to recognize your bad habit and what causes it. Now it’s time to do something about it! But if you’ve ever tried quitting anything cold turkey, whether it be smoking cigarettes or eating sugar, you know the unpleasant feeling of withdrawals. And for those of us with poor self-control, a cold turkey method will shoot holes right through our willpower. Therefore, when quitting bad habits, start new habits that are more suitable. For the anxiety-prone, chewing on gum, ice, or even taking a long, relaxing walk to help ease your mind can help you stop biting your nails or destroying your pens. For cigarette smokers, caffeine addicts, and vending machine groupies, you might realize through addressing the trigger that you’re really just looking for social interaction. Next time, grab a cup of water in the break room instead of a cup of Joe, or try talking to the watercooler crowd instead of the smoking gang. While you might not need a replacement forever, finding something else to do in place of your bad habit can help wean you off faster than going cold turkey.
Step #4: Don’t Punish Yourself, Reward Yourself
Many people get angry when they catch themselves chewing on their lips or on a co-worker’s pen. But hey, it happens. While there might be many ways to deter you from doing your bad habit, they won’t be as effective psychologically. For instance, nail biters can buy special nail polish that tastes horrible. While this might stop you from biting your nails when you have it on, what is going to stop you when the nail polish wears off? Instead of painting your nails in a stinky polish every day for the rest of your life, reward yourself when you’ve made it to a certain goal. After a month of not biting your nails, treat yourself to a professional manicure. Working towards goals as opposed to working out of fear is much more effective because it takes a positive psychological approach.
Old habits might die hard, but they can die! Take control of your bad habits today by acknowledging their presence, finding their triggers, replacing them with appropriate actions, and rewarding your good behavior. Not only will you be able to stop annoying yourself and others, but you’ll also be able to fight off bad habits in the future.