Four Ways to Let Go of Unhealthy Habits

It’s one thing to make a mistake. It’s another to continue making it.

You know something needs to change and you want to be free, but somehow you find yourself repeating the same patterns over and over again. You ask yourself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why can’t I find the strength to let go?”

Whether it’s a relationship that no longer brings you joy, an excess amount of caffeine or sugar in your diet or a bad habit in your workout routine that could lead to an injury, we all have habits that we know we should change. Letting go of unhealthy habits and behaviors is difficult. Sometimes it feels impossible.

The good news: It isn’t impossible.

The bad news: It takes work.

1. Acknowledge the pattern. It’s often easier to avoid problems than to deal with them. The first step is acknowledging that there is something you want to change. Try to access your behavior pattern without judgment. We’re human. We make mistakes. Guilt is a useless emotion, and self-blame isn’t helping you move in any new direction. So, acknowledge the pattern as objectively as possible and move on to the next step.

2. Identify your needs that aren’t being met. Take the time to pinpoint the different ways this behavior or habit isn’t serving you. Are you in a romantic relationship or friendship where you want to feel love but end up feeling like you aren’t supported, or that your time and emotions aren’t a priority or respected? Are you drinking so much coffee during throughout your day and notice that you’re losing your appetite, having trouble sleeping and your teeth are getting stained? What is this attachment doing for you? Is it helping you to be your happiest? Your healthiest? The best version of you? Maybe even ask yourself, “How would I feel if a loved one were in this situation?”

3. Practice self-awareness. Changing a behavior pattern without understanding why it’s there in the first place is like pulling up weeds but leaving the roots. It will solve the problem for the time being, but it will resurface again at a later date. Creating awareness gives you the tools to recognize emotional triggers that will help you to avoid recreating the pattern at a later date.

For many of us, this can be the most difficult step. Asking the hard questions, soul searching and digging deep can stir up many negative emotions. It’s so easy to blame external circumstances (people, situations, chemicals or genetics), but until you take ownership in your part of the equation, you’ll probably repeat it.

Self-awareness can be practiced in many different ways. There are more private options like journaling, reading self-help books and taking online psychometric (Meyers-Briggs is an example of this), or if that doesn’t seem to help or you prefer more interactive approach, you can ask for feedback from loved ones or try counseling.

4. Surround yourself with positivity. Replace negative patterns with positive ones. Try herbal tea or hot water with lemon instead of coffee, or if that’s too much of a trigger try taking a stroll around the block to help get moving. Spend time with people who make you feel good, who make you laugh, who inspire and motivate you. Try new things. Experiment. Reconnect with activities you enjoy. Write down three things you’re grateful for each morning when you wake up or before you go to bed. Do not waste time lamenting the loss of a habit that no longer serves you. Focus on a positive future. Focus on yourself, your goals and how to achieve them.


2 thoughts on “Four Ways to Let Go of Unhealthy Habits

    • Megan Bettis

      Definitely through experience. It’s been a long road, a lot of work, and soooooo many stumbles (and miserable falls), but it’s finally getting easier to take care of me. It will likely always be a challenge, but most good things in life require some effort.

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