How to Build Positive Habits and Break Negative Ones

How to Build Positive Habits and Break Negative Ones

Having good habits when it comes to work and lifestyle has a great variety of benefits. Some good behaviors are instilled in us as children. However, building those habits and getting rid of any negative practices that you may have accidentally developed along the way can be challenging. 

Here is what you need to know about building positive habits and getting rid of negative ones. 

How to Build a Positive Habit

When attempting to build a positive behavior, it is helpful to focus on the three R’s: reminder, routine, and reward. The reminder serves as a trigger, telling your brain to do something; the routine is what you do in response to the cue. When you do something that helps relieve stress or causes enjoyment, your brain releases dopamine, providing a reward for the behavior, helping you solidify the habit. 


When building a habit, you may need to create reminders that your brain will later associate with the positive behavior. For instance, if you are trying to exercise three times per week, consider setting an alarm to remind yourself. 


Once you have your reminder, you can go ahead with your routine. Some routines are easier to perform than others. Determination and perseverance are key. For instance, if you are looking to exercise more, there may be days when you are feeling tired or sluggish; try to stick to your routine anyway. 


Having a reward will help keep you motivated to stick to the routine. Not all new habits will trigger dopamine release, so you may want to have a treat for yourself to motivate yourself to stick to a habit. Over time, the reward will become associated with the habit. 

It takes an average of 66 days to form and solidify a good habit, so it is important to keep repeating the pattern. If you slip up, forget, or really just cannot bring yourself to perform the positive behavior for a day, cut yourself some slack, don’t give up- just do better next time. Building a good habit is not perfect, but it will be worth the effort. 

Breaking Negative Habits

Just like good habits can be built with the “reminder, routine, reward” cycle, bad habits can be solidified in much the same way. To break a negative pattern, you need to break that cycle. To break a habit, you’ll need to: 

Identify Your Triggers

Figure out what triggers or reminders lead you to partake in the bad habit and avoid them if possible. For instance, if you’re trying to stop biting your nails, stress or boredom may trigger that behavior. Even if it isn’t possible to avoid the trigger, simply being conscious of the catalyst is helpful. 

Be Mindful

Many habits are done without thinking, and you might think that things are. Practicing mindfulness will help you identify the triggers and stop partaking in the bad habit. If you have a bad habit that sneaks up on you, enlist the help of a friend or family member. 

Swap the Bad Habit for a Good One

Try substituting the bad habit for something better. For instance, if stress makes you bite your nails, consider drinking a glass of water or taking a few deep breaths instead.  

The Takeaway

Replacing bad habits with healthy, positive ones is not always easy. On average, it may take up to two months to fully form good habits, so persistence and dedication are key.  If you are serious about committing to better practices, you must identify your triggers and remember the three R’s.

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