5 ways to break a habit

Whether it’s a sweet tooth, smoking or biting your nails, here’s some top ways to bust bad patterns
Getty Images
1. Replace the bad habit

Instead of trying to stop doing something, start doing something else. For example, if you find yourself reaching for a cigarette when you’re stressed (and who isn’t right now?), practice a breathing exercise first. Plus, it’s worth noting the more you try to suppress a thought, the more likely it is to persist (for example, smokers who tried to repress thoughts about smoking thought about it even more)! In other words, focus on the new habit rather than obsessing over the old one.

2. Give it 66 days

Yes, you need to be persistent and patient. A study found it took an average of 66 days – just over two months – for a behaviour to change. Though time varied from 18 to 254 days, so don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you hope, just keep at it!

3. Cut your triggers

By avoiding environments or things that you associate with the habit. So if you demolish a packet of choc digestives every time you have a cup of builder’s tea, try switching to a herbal tea instead.

4. Tell a friend

Outing your habit-breaking goal has serious benefits. A study found people who wrote down their goals and shared it with a friend were, on average, a third more successful than those who merely made a plan and didn’t tell anyone.

5. Download this app

HabitBull (it’s free!) helps by organising your life – it gives you an overview of everything you need to do on a regular basis. You input habits you want to break so you can build a ‘streak’ of successful days – and it shows you the length and the success percentage for each one. Each day, you’ll see the streak becoming longer, which motivates you to keep going.