How to break a bad habit

STEPHANIE AYRE
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2013
Habit

EATING AWAY AT YOU: The only way to turn a bad habit around is to face it head on.

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Fingernail biting, late night snacking, over-spending and too many cups of coffee... Can you relate?

We've all had some kind of bad habit and, well, some worse than others. But as mindset expert Pat Mesiti explains, it's human nature.

"Like an addiction, a bad habit is something you're unable to overcome or you have no control over," says Pat.

So if there's something you're ready to kick to the curb this season, keep reading as Pat explains more about those pesky habits and how you can finally break the cycle.

The Habit 
It's not uncommon to want to over-indulge in the things that make us feel good, but it's when they become repetitive behavior or a necessity, do they begin to become unhealthy.

"There are thousands of bad habits which we could fall into and they all need to be managed for our well-being," says Pat.

"All bad habits can be addressed using a similar process, but nothing will ever change if we don't make the changes. We need to understand that all habits (and addictions for that matter) exist because we are trying to feel good about something. In effect we are self-medicating, trying to bring ourselves up or give ourselves some sort of comfort," explains Pat.

The Cycle
We've all been tempted by something at some stage in our life, and initially this is where habit forms.

"For instance, being tempted to smoke or tempted for that little drink and we don't know what to do to resist. It seems innocent enough so we get ourselves into rituals," says Pat.

He explains that before we know it, these rituals become more present. We um and ah over them for a while, before finally acting out.

"Then we feel bad and get down for not resisting. So what do you do when you feel bad? You have to do something to feel good again, and so the cycle starts over," he says.

Breaking the Cycle
So we know we've all been there, possibly picking at our nails right now, yes? But how do we break-free of this habitual behaviour? Pat shares his five tips to kick them to the curb and make positive changes.

1. Admit you have a bad habit and get real about it. Facing your problem and drawing a line in the sand is the first place to start. There's got to be a day where you say, "I refuse to kid myself any further. Today I am making changes."

2. Acknowledge your patterns and behaviors by asking yourself, "What is it I do that causes me to act out?" "What is it that triggers me?" Once you understand your patterns, you know what to avoid.

3. It's very important if you're going to break a bad habit to go and get help. In all my years of working with people with addictions, rarely did anyone overcome addiction on their own. You need someone to ask the hard questions but then you also need someone who cares and understands. Please don't find a judgmental person, find an accountable person. Then when you're tempted, you can call them up.

4. The next thing is to have a long-term plan. You're not going to stop your bad habit overnight. Decide that you are going to overcome and then give yourself time to do it. And if you fall off the wagon or you drop the ball, it's OK. It's OK to make a mistake as long as you pick yourself up and keep going again.

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5. Find a better alternative. If your bad habit is drinking coffee, turn it around and get water. If you are biting your nails, put something on them to make them taste sour.

The Reward
This is the most important step when trying to break a bad habit.

"Every time you get a win, reward yourself. Remember, every one of us is motivated by recognition and reward. So if you find a better alternative and you overcome your bad habit, give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself. Remember, this is a process. It's not going to happen overnight," says Pat.

He adds it's also about being in control and really wanting to make a change. What you do each day will determine the end result and what you will become permanently.

"You were born to win, not to lose. What you fail to overcome will eventually overcome you. So remind yourself of how flat you felt after you failed to resist the temptation and let it be something that deters you."

Above all else, Pat says to have a plan, stay accountable, give yourself time and celebrate your wins.

- PopSugar

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