We all have our bad habits. Whether we’re a few minutes late to work every day, enjoy donuts a little too much or spend our free time scrolling through videos on Facebook, our bad habits tend to shape who we are over time. If we let our habits get out of hand, they can have negative impacts on our lives and eventually turn into addictions that impede relationships, productivity and in some cases, our health.

For some of us, eating unhealthy foods can translate into a food addiction and threaten both our physical and emotional wellbeing. For others, frequent casual drinking eventually turns into alcoholism, or racking up the credit cards affects our quality of life. But among all the possibilities, one thing remains the same: our desire to overcome them.

Here are five steps to breaking a bad habit:

1) Make the choice that you want to change and define the behaviour

Commitment is the first step towards real change. Keeping a log of your bad habits – how often you’ve been late, your last cigarette or the number of times you reacted poorly to a conversation – helps to identify patterns and motivate change. Talk openly with loved ones or a counselor about your goals so that you can establish a sense of accountability.

2) Determine why you have developed the bad habit and identify its triggers

Consider the situations that trigger your bad habits. Are you trying to take control? Are they impulsive? Are they negative coping mechanisms to deal with larger problems? Bad habits often correlate with an emotional response, such as feeling anxious in social situations or feeling stressed from a long day at work. The next time you feel an urge to engage in your bad habit, ask yourself, ‘Why do I feel this way?’.

3) Set optimistic yet reasonable goals

Your habit has likely taken a long period of time to develop and has become part of your life, so it’s not going to be changed overnight. Develop a realistic set of goals that you believe you can achieve within a set schedule. If you’re consistently 30 minutes late, try to only be 15 minutes late over the next month. If you struggle to find time to exercise, schedule in designated times and commit to light activities at first.

4) Keep track of your progress

Keeping a journal can be a useful way to track your progress towards a healthier life and begin to recognize the rewards of changing your behaviour. How did it feel when you showed up to work on time? Were you rewarded in any way when you spoke in a calm voice to your partner rather than lashing out at them? Recognize that the process isn’t always easy and record the times you are feeling tempted or emotional about the transition.

5) Don’t be afraid to seek support

At Your Counselling, we believe that building inner resilience often begins by seeking outward support. Reach out to those around you to guide you towards your goals, because you don’t have to be in it alone.

Through outreach, you may realize there are many people who struggle with the same bad habits and addictions that you do. Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous and group fitness programs are a few examples of community support groups who lean on one another for mental support. The focal point on these programs is that you, as a group, are in it together, which can help build the strength and confidence to follow through to the end.

If group support isn’t for you, counselling and psychotherapy may be an ideal alternative. If this sounds like it may be beneficial, Your Counselling’s registered psychologists and counselors can help you with techniques like mindfulness and cognitive therapy to get to the route of your habits and break through them using several proven methods. For many people, individual counselling is an effective way to begin living a more balanced life and to reach their goals.

Contact us today for a free consultation and get started on your journey to breaking free from bad habits.