2 Steps to Stopping a Bad Habit Once and For All

2 Steps to Stopping a Bad Habit Once and For All

By: Raychel Chumley

Do you have a bad habit you want to stop once and for all? I know I do! But it can be extremely difficult. Believe it or not there is a process to turn bad habits into good habits. Let’s talk about the 2 steps it takes for stopping a bad habit once and for all.  

A few years ago, I was reading my children their bedtime story and I stumbled upon a universal truth right in the middle of a Bernstein Bears book. Now if the truth be told, Momma and Papa Bear usually teach their cubs practical living skills and universal truths.  That night something clicked for me when I read how Momma Bear handled her cub’s bad habits in the book, “Forget their Manners” 

The Bear family was having a major issue with their cubs forgetting their manners and the Momma Bear was at a loss for what to do. Instead of hollering, bribing, ignoring, or pleading Momma Bear decided the only way to teach her cubs good manners was to change their habit… So she made a plan.  Amazing!  

Right in the middle of a children’s book is a little nugget of truth for all of us...and 2 brilliant steps for stopping a bad habit once and for all!   

#1 Decide something has to change. 

The first thing we had to do is decide that something has to change. We can do anything until we make that decision first.  We have to get so sick of the bad habit that we are willing to do whatever it takes to replace it with something good. Then we can start fighting our bad habits with good ones. 

Research now shows that there is a link between the formation of bad habits and the increase of pleasure chemicals in our brain. When we receive the immediate rewards from our bad habits we increase the release of pleasure-sensor chemicals in our brain. Our pleasure sensors condition us to want the reward again, and again, and again, until we have formed an uncontrollable habit!  

This works with both bad habits and good habits. So, why are bad habits more difficult to break? Because most bad habits have immediate rewards and good habits have more long term rewards. Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a leading authority on the brain and its pleasure pathways explains: 

Why are bad habits stronger? You’re fighting against the power of an immediate reward. We all as creatures are hard-wired that way, to give greater value to an immediate reward as opposed to something that’s delayed.

Let’s face it the when it comes to the choice of eating our broccoli or having a piece of pie, we would much rather have the immediate pleasure of eating the pie than the long term benefits of weight loss and better health. This applies to all choices we make between our bad habits and our good!  

#2 Make a Plan to Succeed 

Is overcoming bad habits hopeless, then? Absolutely not! You just need to set yourself up for success. One of my favorite quotes about implementing change is, “It’s not rocket science, its discipline.”  Just like Momma Bear taught her cubs- have a plan! We put too much pressure on ourselves to change immediately, or to change too much at once, and we usually end up failing. However, with a plan and a little accountability you can change your results from failure to success.  

When it comes to changing a behavior you cannot do it alone. In fact, you have a greater chance of failing than you do succeeding when you try to change by yourself! Your probability increases to 50% when you design a plan to implement the change and to 95% if you have a specific accountability appointment with another person (like a coach, counselor, or mentor) for the sole purpose of implementing your plan. That is amazing! 

The truth is, when it comes to stopping a bad habit,  we overestimate the power of our  own will and our ability to do it alone. All habits have consequences, either good or bad. You can form good habits that lead to a healthy mind, body, relationships, and marriage. Or, you can form bad habits that lead to destruction and turmoil for yourself and those you love. The choice my friends is yours.  

Just like the cubs, we need to remember that to change our bad habits we need to DECIDE and than implement your PLAN. It might take months, it might take years, but when you choose to decide and you implement your plan you will be well on your way to stopping a bad habit once and for all!  

Thanks for the great advice, Momma Bear! 

~ Raychel Chumley