Breaking a bad habit or starting a new, healthy habit is no small feat. Luckily, your timing can greatly increase your chances of success. Researchers found that a changein your environmental surroundings or routine increases the likelihood of changing habits, and even makes it easier to change.

 Prepare Yourself

When you choose to quit a habit or start a healthy one, decide that now is the time to change your ways. Don’t wait to feel ready to quit because that feeling will never come. You may feel nervous, scared, pessimistic, or hesitant about changing, but those feelings are all normal. They’re not reasons to not change.

Put together a plan on how you’ll reach your goal. If you want to quit drinking, you may attend rehab and AA meetings. If you want to lose weight, you may join a weight loss program and get a gym membership. Research ways to handle your specific habit. Some suggestions are universal for all habits, while some, like quitting smoking, may require additional and more targeted methods.

Visit your doctor to discuss changing your habits. You may need medical assistance to break some habits, such as methadone treatment to stop using heroin or nicotine patches to stop smoking. Other habits, such as weight loss attempts, may require the supervision of a doctor. No matter what habit you’re trying to break, seeking counseling from a mental health professional can help you as well.

Getting Started

Verbalize to yourself and to others that you’re making positive changes. Telling family and friends gives you a support system to motivate you and hold you accountable. Check in with these people regularly. Start writing every day. Be honest about your feelings, your bad habits, your plans to quit, and ways you’ve unsuccessfully tried to quit in the past. Be as detailed as possible.

Figure out what you want to achieve and acknowledge that your bad habits are probably getting in the way of that goal. For example, if you want to lose weight, bad habits that can hold you back include drinking soda or not exercising. Also, consider that your bad habit may be a coping mechanism for an issue.

Drugs, alcohol, or food are often used to deal with negative emotions like stress or sadness. Without addressing why you have the habit, you may not be able to change the habit, or you may just pick up another bad habit in its place. Determine what the issue is and learn new, healthy coping mechanism.

While You’re Making Changes

Take care of your health when you’re trying to change habits. Being tired, stressed, overworked, or overwhelmed will make it harder to change, as your body and mind will look for your habits for comfort. “Transformations that stick require time, thoughtfulness, energy, and introspection,” says Huffington Post. Find ways to keep your mental health in check. Get a massage or practice meditation or yoga.

Be open to changing more than just your habit. For example, while you may know that giving up soda will help you lose weight, you need to change more than your diet; getting adequate sleep is just as important as exercising and eating healthy. And don’t underestimate the small changes. For example, just using a smaller plate at meals can help you to eat less food.

During the process of breaking your habit or starting a new, healthy habit, you may feel bad at times. For instance, smoking cessation can result in physical withdrawal symptoms and starting up a workout routine often causes you to feel extremely sore in the beginning. Power through these rough patches and remind yourself of how much better you’ll feel in the end.

Your habits have a strong effect on your life, including your health, success, and mood. Although changing a habit is difficult, it can improve these aspects of your life. You may not successfully follow your plan every day, but if you try each day to make positive changes, you can reach your goal and improve your life.

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