How To Break A Bad Habit (And Replace It With A Good One)

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By Sandy Getzky –

Nail biting, overeating and smoking are just a few behaviors that can quickly turn into bad habits, if practiced regularly.  We all have or have had bad habits that are unhealthy and unproductive.  The all-important question you may ask yourself is:  How can I stop?   You can answer this question by learning how to get from point A to point B, one strategy at a time.

Start Small

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Unhealthy habits do not happen overnight, as a series of bad choices over time result in practicing unwanted behavior.  For instance, night owls regularly burn the midnight oil.  It takes hard work to stop cold turkey and start turning in at 10:00 p.m.  Your body has to gradually adjust to this time change.  The better thing to do is to start going to bed a half an hour to an hour early over the span of a couple of weeks to give your body an opportunity to ease into the “new normal” bedtime routine.

Healthy eating habits are one of the toughest to establish, as bad choices are plentiful and good ones are often at a premium.  But we know that eating poorly can hurt you in way both big (heart disease, diabetes) and small (appearance of stretch marks, reduced energy). Healthy eating must be purposeful and persistent if you want to make a lasting change.  Crash diets are a bust, studies have shown.  Dr. Oz is one of the prominent proponents of healthy eating as a lifestyle change.  This is best achieved by slowly incorporating more whole grains, fruits and veggies into your diet and weeding out the cookies, soft drinks and the like.  You won’t shed several pounds overnight, but will lose weight at a healthy, sustained rate and likely keep it off.

It Takes Work

Replacing a bad habit with a good one is never as easy as it seems, but certainly not impossible.  Research has shown that self-control needs practice, and can be strengthened with repetition.  The process is not without a few bumps and bruises along the way, however.  If you are a heavy caffeine drinker and want to decrease or eliminate your intake, do not be surprised if you experience a few withdrawal symptoms. Yes, withdrawal symptoms!

When your body is used to consuming two or three cups of coffee or tea a day, and suddenly the well runs dry, you may experience temporary headaches or irritability.  To lessen the blow, try cutting back on the strength and amount of caffeine per day, say a maximum of two cups of weakened tea or coffee at first.  Eventually, just drink one.   After a while, you may be able to eliminate it altogether.  Give your body the chance to get used to the idea.

Choose the Alternative

Doing away with an unhealthy food or behavior without replacing it with a healthier option will cause you to run the risk of regressing.   The two steps forward, three steps backward pattern gets old quickly and can discourage people from making changes.  When you replace the old with the new, you learn to adapt to healthier options without feeling deprived.

For example, taking a short evening walk rather than sitting and watching television is an alternative that can become a healthy habit.

It’s not only the conscious choices we make that have the potential to affect our health but it can be unintentional things we do that pose potential risks, like a common summer habit of walking barefoot in public places.  While this may seem relaxing and innocent, it can lead to the development of a stubborn nail fungus infection that is hard to break.  Treatment is at a premium and you may have trouble finding summer sandals to sport with discolored nails on display.   If you get into the habit of keeping your toes clean and shoes on your feet, there is a good chance the bacteria will not rear its ugly head.

The key to breaking any bad habit is to replace it with healthy alternatives that will lead to a happy, healthier lifestyle.


Sandy Getzky is an associate editor at ProveMyMeds, a public health and education startup focused on producing helpful resources concerning the treatment of common ailments.


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How To Break A Bad Habit (And Replace It With A Good One)
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