The Best Steps For Cutting Back On A Harmful Habit

It’s very easy to build bad habits. You’re not a weak, dramatic, or untrustworthy person for falling into them, as they can affect anyone at any time.

For example, in a society that often bombards us with advertising, overspending can be a very real habit that people fall into, which can cause havoc when trying to pay priority bills like rent and food.

In addition, small acceptable habits can easily become more frequently relied upon over time. That might involve drinking, vaping, or even spending too much time playing video games. If you’ve noticed a harmful habit starting to build, it’s important to understand the full extent of it and to find the appropriate help you need.

That said, it’s not always easy to understand if a bad habit has moved out of control. This is because it’s hard to accept we have a problem, especially if we feel like it could be stopped tomorrow if we really tried.

A good marker is to see how you act after you’ve promised yourself you won’t engage in it anymore. If you find yourself drinking even when you had planned not to, that’s a big warning sign and may require specialist assistance to help you.

Let’s consider, then, the best steps you can take to cut back from a harmful habit.

Self-Awareness and Acknowledgment

Self-awareness is an important step in the right direction. As we mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, you’re not a bad person nor should you be mocked for having a bad habit that you need to work on. Recognizing the need for change is actually a testament to your character, that you won’t take issues personally if they affect you.

But it’s all well and good to admit you need help with an issue, though it’s still possible to underplay its effects or difficulties you’re facing. To be honest and admit the issue, you have to take a full account of how it’s been affecting every aspect of your life.

For example – how much money have you spent on this habit in the last two months? In some cases, the figure might shock you. If it’s minimal, then you may realize intangible effects here.

How about your free time? If you’ve been gaming so much that your work and sleep have been heavily affected, that can be a real problem that needs focusing on. With these cold and hard facts in front of you, it’s hard to dismiss any concern as irrational, as you’ll no doubt be feeling the same kind of difficulty yourself.

Setting Clear Goals

It’s important to set goals about how you wish this habit to change. Note that we’ve mentioned addictions or other very important issues to work on so far, but in some cases, the awareness stage might show you only need to cut back.

Perhaps you hope to only drink a certain amount of alcohol units a week and never go over it. That could be a good limit to set, and if you stick to that for a while only, the problem may resolve itself. 

Alternatively, perhaps you feel complete and total sobriety, or switching out an old bad habit with a new, more constructive hobby is worth your time most of all. Setting clear goals means being explicit about what you’ll achieve and how you hope to achieve it, without soaking in the vague “I’ll get around to fixing this sometime” mindset that only lets the habit propagate.

Identifying Triggers

man biting nails

Bad habits don’t have to be a constant, they can be defined by other social or personal situations that need to be looked at. For example, you may find that whenever you’re out at a bar, you tend to pick up a pack of cigarettes and smoke half, but you’ll never do that unless inebriated.

That can be a trigger to consider, then, and breaking up the ritual of heading to the store to purchase a pack before you head out or heading out with those who don’t smoke can be a healthy way to cut back on the habit.

Sometimes, bad habits can come from triggers that cause you to act irrationally and in an unhelpful manner. For example, perhaps you’ve been experiencing heavy stress at work and some difficult panic attacks, and for that reason, you’ve started self-medicating with alcohol.

Of course, responses like this are unhelpful, but it’s easy to fall into them, especially when there’s a deeper issue being masked. Consider the trigger, and it may give you some insight into what you need to work on. From there you can begin:

Seeking Support

The easiest thing in the world is to assume you’re tough enough to handle anything. A fun quiz suggested that 7% of men think they could win a one-on-one fight with a grizzly bear. Of course, those 7% of men would quickly find out the truth if ever put in that situation, but that doesn’t prevent us from having faulty impressions of our capabilities.

Thankfully, age tends to let this sense of invulnerability fall away, but not everyone matures at the same rate. What we’re trying to say here is that if you feel your habit can easily be overcome, maybe it can, but also, perhaps it very much can’t. It’s good to never dismiss the help you need based on a feeling but to have a professional and specialist help you come to that decision.

In fact, through this kind of help, you may realize that you’re actually not in need of just addiction treatment, but also addiction and mental health treatment, as 38% of those with a negative substance habit have mental conditions that need to be addressed. So, just “thugging out” the difficulty of a current habit is usually not enough, especially if personal issues have helped that habit persist over time. It sounds so obvious when you’re in recovery, but it can be very hard to see when not.

Substitution with Healthy Alternatives

Cutting back or cutting out a harmful habit will cause a hole. If that hole isn’t filled, then it’s easy to return to old habits. So for example, if you decide to stop going out drinking at the weekend, what will you do during your weekend evenings?

You might volunteer at a local shelter, play sports with your friends, head to the gym, write or read, enjoy a movie marathon with some great home-cooked food and a cheese board, or simply journal and plan your next day.

Substitution allows you to fill your time, and it also gives you something to focus on outside of your regular habits. Otherwise, the mental cobwebs can still trap you in your old habits, and you’ll simply be sitting there trying to exercise raw willpower when a little restraint and an alternative task would have helped you.

Monitoring Progress

Once you find the help you may or may not need, and replace your bad habit with good lifestyle choices, you may wonder what’s next. Well, putting it simply, monitoring your progress can be great to see how far you’ve come.

You can set and forget day tracking apps that tell you exactly how much time has progressed since your last cigarette, last drink, or last overspend.

If you forget about this until it notifies you every month, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ve made. You can also appreciate more money in your bank account, a healthier waistline, or perhaps a better group of friends you’ve made through going out and meeting people.

In the long run, such an approach keeps you on the straight and narrow and shows you that your efforts were worth it all along. With this advice, you’re sure to get there.

Related Articles