Want To Change A Habit Permanently? Do These 7 Things

To achieve anything worthwhile in life, you must be dedicated. When you show a real dedication to attaining your goals, you are unstoppable, but some habits have the potential to seriously impede commitment. Positive habits, on the other hand, might have the opposite effect and should be established as much as possible.

Your habits are the fuel that allows you to operate at your best. They also influence your level of inner serenity and general prosperity.

Eliminating bad habits and replacing them with good ones will reduce stress, boost productivity, and help you live a better, more prosperous life.

To permanently change a habit, you must concentrate on the steps required to attain the desired result.

You can break bad habits, start good ones, and achieve your goals if you focus on this process and the stages outlined below.

Changing the habit loop

Now that you have an understanding of how habits form, let’s turn your attention to changing them. Consider the following scenario:

Every day after class you go to Starbucks to hang out with friends instead of going to the library to study. You know that you need to spend a couple of hours each day studying but socializing with friends makes you happy.

Your goal is to implement a routine that accounts for more study time and yields the same happy feeling of hanging out with friends. But how might you do that?

One way would be to convince your friends to meet in the library and spend a couple of hours studying together. Afterward, you could treat yourselves at Starbucks. Another routine would be to study on your own and then meet your friends at Starbucks.

In either case, you replace a negative routine (going to Starbucks before studying) with a healthier one (studying before going to Starbucks). By changing these routines, you keep the reward of socializing with your friends while gaining new ones: earning better grades. By changing your routine, you increase your chances of earning multiple rewards.

Let’s plug this new routine into the habit loop to see how it works.

Cue: The time your class ends tells your brain which habits to employ. If you want to be extra ambitious, you could create a calendar notification on your computer or mobile device.
Routine: Studying after class with friends or alone.
Reward: Socializing with friends at Starbucks after studying; earning better grades.

1. Pinpoint Habits You Want to Change

It’s not enough to engage in some harmful habits. You must also comprehend the procedure and what it takes to permanently change those habits. It’s no surprise that Robert Taibbi, a certified clinical social worker, believes:

“You need to prime the habit-breaking process by thinking in terms of specific, doable behaviors —like not dumping your shoes in the living room but putting them in your closet…Drill down on the concrete.”[1]

The importance of specificity is crucial in this case. Identifying specific habits rather than broad behaviors will help you work toward change more quickly, allowing you to hit your target rather than wasting time.

2. Pay a Fine for Every Bad Habit

Fines can build up quickly, and they can be painful. Although paying $5 for a pack of smokes may not seem like a punishment at first, adjusting your mentality can help you see it as a punishment if you make a plan to use that money toward anything else.

Calculate how much those fines would cost over the course of a lifetime. This can assist you in visualizing all of the different possibilities for that money [2].

One technique to make undesirable behaviors difficult is to impose a self-imposed fine. If you’re prepared to pay a $25 monthly fee for a credit card, you might be able to find yourself $10 to $15 at home if you don’t break your bad habits. You can also ask for y to be charged by an accountability partner.

3. Find Your Triggers

Stress and boredom are the most common causes of poor habits. Finding the fundamental cause can assist you in changing a behavior or replacing a poor one with a good one. [3]

If you have a habit of consuming junk food when you are anxious, for example, learn to detect when your stress begins to trigger that habit. Then attempt to replace it with a constructive habit like meditation, going for a walk, or moving through a few yoga poses.

4. Start by Making Tiny Changes

Forming new habits takes time as well as a concentrated effort. It is unquestionably not an easy task. It’s unrealistic to expect to be able to change a bad habit overnight. You must be patient and concentrate on taking modest, unambiguous actions.

For example, instead of using creamer in your coffee, you can reduce your sugar intake by choosing low-fat milk. A drastic change, such as completely avoiding sweets, may not be effective, but gradual, significant improvements will.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Meditation or mindful practice raises awareness of what is going on and why it is happening. It’s about recognizing the negative consequences of bad practices.

The prefrontal cortex of your brain is where habits are formed. This little region is in charge of determining which habit is activated at any given time.

While habits may have deeper roots in the brain, neuroscientists at MIT revealed that the brain’s planning center has the ability to turn them off. [4]

The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning, decision-making, and concentration, can be activated by mindfulness practice. It can also cause the right amygdala, which is responsible for fear and negative emotions, to shrink.

It’s similar to honing a skill like playing the piano. You get better at playing the more you do it.

Your brain follows a routine, according to Judson Brewer in his Ted Talk[5] — trigger, behavior, and reward.”

For example, smoking may assist you in recovering from an incident; you continue to do so because it relieves tension, but your body reaps the benefits of pleasure and relaxation.

Brewer found that being attentive and aware helped some of his study participants understand how bad smoking tastes and smells. The prefrontal brain recognizes the consequences of unhealthy habits, but it is turned down when you are stressed.

You can stimulate this region using mindfulness to help you relax.

6. Change Your Environment

You won’t be able to break a habit permanently if you stay in an environment that encourages it.

There are three parts to a habit:

  • Your brain is prompted to follow a routine by a stimulus. Following that is the actual performance as well as the reward for completing the exercise.
  • If you stroll down the street and see a cigarette shop (cue), you go over to buy a pack of cigarettes. You begin smoking it (as is customary), and you instantly experience a short-term euphoric sensation (reward).
  • You must stop strolling along that route if you wish to quit smoking. You may empower yourself to start building new, good habits after you cease perceiving the trigger by changing your environment.

7. Be Patient With Yourself

Nothing substantial happens overnight, and changing a habit is no exception. As a result, don’t become frustrated if it takes a long time to break a habit. More time is required for your brain to form new connections and produce new habits.

Wait for the adjustment process to complete its cycle before giving up on changing such habits.

8. Practice Mental Scripting

Rewriting your mental scripts can help you break a habit. Mental scripts are a collection of behaviors or responses to specific situations. Changing a habit necessitates a concentrated effort.

Your previous failures may be included in old scripts. They are formed by constant reinforcement or a series of encounters. Possession of scripts does not imply that they are authentic. You are not doomed to fail today just because you failed yesterday. [6]

  • What are your options for rewriting your scripts?
  • Identify the scripts that are no longer in use. Examine your past for the events and encounters that have shaped your current outlook.
  • Make a list of the scripts you want to replace. You’ll need the original scripts if you’re intending to rewrite one.
  • Break the script down into sections and tackle the first one before moving on to the next.
  • Establish a strategy and the procedures necessary to carry it out.
  • Act according to the script. Don’t wait until you have the perfect strategy; get started now.

How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?

To internalize a behavior or break a bad habit, there is no specific number. Several studies have suggested various approaches and time frames for developing new behaviors.

The 21-Day Rule

Maxwell Maltz’s early work popularised this concept. Dr. Maltx was a plastic surgeon who wanted to know how people thought about themselves. He was also curious about how long it took for a patient to recover from surgery. [7]

He discovered that the average person would spend 21 days adjusting based on his findings. Several self-help professionals have bought into the idea of altering habits in 21 days based on this knowledge.

Phillippa Lally, a UCL health psychology researcher, and her colleagues also discovered how long it takes to break a habit.

Over 96 people were investigated over the course of 12 weeks, according to the researchers. Each person chose a new habit. They were asked to report on whether they had developed the habit over the next 12 weeks.

Some people developed simple habits, such as drinking water with lunch. Others engaged in more strenuous exercises, such as evening running for 15 minutes.

Finally, the team discovered that participants’ activation of new behaviors given a time frame was automatic. According to Lally’s research, it takes between two and eight months to acquire new habits or break old ones. [8]


When you’re trying to break a habit, it takes dedication and persistence to stick with it. Remember to concentrate on the process rather than the outcome.

You can take modest steps in this manner, enjoy the ride, and anticipate what awaits you at the conclusion.


[1]. PsychologyToday: How To Break Bad Habits

[2]. Business Insider: The Lifetime Cost Of 13 Bad Habits

[3]. Jamesclear.com: How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One

[4]. MITNews: Wired for habit

[5]. Judson Brewer: A simple way to break a bad habit

[6]. ColleenHuffington Post: How Long Does It Take To Form a Habit(Backed By Science) Georges: Re-scripting The Stories We Tell Ourselves

[7]. Huffington Post: How Long Does It Take To Form a Habit(Backed By Science)

[8]. European Journal of Social Psychology: How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world

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