Deep down, we know that looking away from our problems isn’t going to solve them. Somehow, we still continue to ignore our need to quit a bad habit. However, scientific studies say that might not entirely be our fault. Stop self-sabotaging today and kick your bad habits in the butt with these expert-proof mindfulness training exercises!

Psychiatrist and addiction expert Judson Brewer says our brain’s prefrontal cortex could be the culprit. While it is the part of the brain that becomes the voice that advises you against indulging in your bad habit, it is also the part of the brain that switches off and ‘looks away’ in stressful situations. (Think about how you go for that cigarette or extra cookie, especially when you have a stressful situation at hand.)

That said, the blame game won’t get us far. If a habit is bothering you and even makes you prone to health risks (especially now), it’s time to give it up, right?

Sure, it’s easier said than done, but if you’ve accepted your need to quit a bad habit, you’ve already taken your first step towards breaking it!

So here’s a list of things you should start doing now to break free from the rusty chains of your bad habits and kick your bad habits once and for all.

Tip #1 to kick your bad habits: Don’t force it. Embrace mindfulness.

Judson Brewer in his TED talk discusses his mindfulness training to quit smoking that he put to trial with a study group. He suggests you should stop forcing yourself to kick your bad habit in the butt. Try mindfulness training instead.

“With mindfulness training, we dropped the bit about forcing and instead focused on being curious. In fact, we even told them to smoke. What? Yeah, we said, “Go ahead and smoke, just be really curious about what it’s like when you do.” A response by one of the smokers: “Mindful smoking: smells like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals, YUCK!”

This little exercise, he says, helps your experiential side of the brain to understand what your cognitive mind already knows: Not only is it bad for your health, it also makes you feel like crap. While the main focus of the experiment was to quit smoking, this same technique can be applied to whatever bad habit you may have.

Tip #2 Train your mind with reinforcement & punishment to kick your bad habits

If you’ve ever trained your dog or seen a friend train theirs, whenever the dog does something on command or doesn’t, they’re given a treat and called a good boy/girl or a bad boy/girl, respectively. Similarly you need to train your mind as well! Reinforce a positive action towards quitting your bad habit with a reward, and punish yourself for a relapse.

Although calling yourself a good insert gender won’t cut it. When you’re trying to quit a bad habit, pause, and think about the rewards and punishments that would work in your favor.

For example, if you’re trying to reduce your procrastination habits, reward yourself for getting work done with an hour of TV or your favorite activity post work. And if you end up procrastinating, punish yourself with no TV for 2 days.

The harsher (but implementable) your punishment is, the more likely you are to reach for the reward instead.

Tip #3 Don’t expect to have no days of relapse

Remember that it’s completely normal and OK to fall back to bad habits once in a while when you’ve set your mind to quit. This is precisely why it’s so tough to let go of a bad habit successfully. Once you relapse, you think it’s over and stop thinking about quitting altogether. Don’t do that!

Remind yourself that things will not change overnight. So when you do relapse, think about the negative aspects of the bad habit that made you want to quit in the first place.

Tip #4 Try the X effect to make or break a habit

A very simple and effective activity that works to kick your bad habits is the X effect. Whether you’re trying to break a bad habit or build a good one, the X effect becomes proof of your successes as well as your failures. And the more you visualize your progress, the more likely you are to want to improve.

To start practising the X effect, simply make a month-long grid on a sheet of paper and mark each day that you work towards your goal with an X. Leave the grid empty for when you fail to do so. Or, you could be as creative as you want like Reddit user pinguinos.

Tip #5 Find a rebound habit

You know the emptiness you feel when something in your life suddenly ends? When you’re trying to quit a bad habit, you’ll feel this emptiness in the form of withdrawal. So thinking you’ll magically stop doing something will make you long for it more and more if you don’t have a rebound (good) habit ready to replace it. For example, if you’re trying to reduce the hours you spend on Netflix bingeing, take up a hobby you enjoy and replace those hours to practice it every day till it becomes your primary habit.

While you try these simple tips, remind yourself that growth, while being beautifully rewarding, is slow, which is why cultivating and maintaining good habits takes more effort than picking up bad habits.

Good luck!

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