5 Steps to Replace Unwanted(negative) Habits with Positive Ones

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”  ~Confucius

Sometimes, change comes easily and naturally. Some things are just easy to change. Then, there are deeply ingrained habits that are much more difficult to change. You try to change those habits, and you succeed for a while, then you stop and end up feeling like a failure. When this cycle of trying and failing happens a few times, you finally decide to give up and decide this good change is not for you. Story over. Not really, cause something inside you will keep making you want to make the change that your heart so desires. But the fear of failure will not allow you to try. Its a vicious cycle full of negativity and self doubt.

Why are habits(especially negative ones) so difficult to change?

When you are changing a habit, you are really making a “break” from the ways of your past. You are deciding that you no longer want to feel or behave in the same automatic ways that you have become accustomed to. Changing habits requires more than just willpower alone. It requires positive strategy.

Below is a five step strategy to help you overcome unwanted habits in your life and replace them with positive habits that will make your life better.

5 Steps to Replace Unwanted(negative) Habits with Positive Ones

1. Have Meaningful Goals
Undoubtedly, the best ways to give your self the necessary incentive to break a negative habit is to think about its drawbacks, and then compare them with the benefits of being rid of the habit. You must decide that changing your habit is a worthy goal, and worth the effort involved. Like if you want stop eating sugar, you need to research how that will help your health. How it will make you feel healthier.

2. Know the Underlying Purpose Behind Your Habit
Although you want to get rid of a habit that seems destructive or limiting, recognize that your habit serves a purpose. There are many reasons for why we do the things we do. Bring compassion to yourself and review your negative habit. Even though the outcome of your habit is no longer desirable, realize that the underlying reason for your habit is important. For example, overeating may help provide a sense of calm, emotional eating may help push down emotions that you don’t want to deal with, or nail biting may help alleviate stress. Having a sense of inner calm, peace, or comfort are important things. Knowing you want these things, helps you replace those negative habits with positive ones. Instead of over eating to calm down, you could meditate or go for a walk or take up yoga to calm down.

3. Go ahead and Design a New Habit
Now that you know some of the benefits beneath your habit, spend some time identifying a new habit that will be at least as effective as or more effective than the one you are giving up. For example, suppose you have decided to give up eating dessert every night. Instead of spending all your energy and willpower forcing yourself to avoid dessert, realize the benefits your evening dessert brings to you. Then make a list of new habits that would offer those benefits in a new and more beneficial way. If your dessert is an attempt to provide comfort and relaxation, decide what other activities might provide those same benefits in a manner that was even more desirable. You might add breathing techniques to your evening routine to bring you relaxation and reduce stress. Alternatively, you can have a healthier dessert like fruit or dates to curb that sweet tooth. In addition, you might decide to read and/or take an evening bath to provide comfort and curb cravings.

4. Lets Create an Action Plan
Create an outline of how you are going to implement your new positive habit. If your new habit is about adding exercise to your evening routine, then decide what type of exercise interests you, where you would perform that exercise, what type of clothing or equipment you would need, and exactly what time and days you would exercise. You must understand, that our priorities are shown where we spend our time and money. If developing a new habit is your priority, find a way to place it on your calendar, and if necessary, spend money and time on your new habit. For me, since I have taken up yoga and exercise, I love going and buying pretty yoga mats and awesome sports shoes to keep me motivated in this new positive habit.

5. And finally, The Heart of Change
Bring respect to your journey by realizing that changing a habit is not easy. So, before jumping into change, ask yourself if you are psychologically determined to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to change your habit. In addition, make sure your heart is in it. It’s not enough to think you “should” be changing your bad habits. Long-term motivation is easier to maintain when you realize in your heart that you want change because you want to feel differently. The heart of change is in your emotions. Enthusiasm, excitement, and pride spur action. What gets you excited about your change?

Change doesn’t happen instantly. So be patient with yourself.

Success comes from getting insights about why you do what you do, and then practicing new habits.

When you truly commit to adding more positive habits to your life, the negative ones will slowly fade away, leaving more and more room for happiness and satisfaction. And, honestly commitment is far more powerful than just a passing interest in something. Eg. you are committed to make a relationship work rather than simply being interested in making it work. A commitment means you will do whatever it takes to make it work…whereas an interest is just a passing fad at best. Hence Commit!

Adopt a positive attitude and as you commit to your plan, you will experience yourself as a positively different person.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you want to change any unwanted habits from yourself? Do you have any strategies of your own that you have tried successfully? Do share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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12 thoughts on “5 Steps to Replace Unwanted(negative) Habits with Positive Ones

  1. Lore Raymond

    Appreciating “3. Go ahead and Design a New Habit
    Now that you know some of the benefits beneath your habit, spend some time identifying a new habit that will be at least as effective as or more effective than the one you are giving up.”
    I plan to do this in the days ahead.

  2. kelleygrimes

    These are great steps to change a negative habit Zeenat! I have found it critical to resolve my ambivalence before I am ready to transform a negative habit and find it so empowering when I am able to follow through and embrace the process as self-nurturing! Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this helpful advice. Changing habits does require a new mindset and replacing the old habit with a new action. As you have suggested, planning and preparation help create success.

  4. cathytaugh

    Love your positive approach to change, Zeenat! There is often not a straight line to change, so a positive mindset helps you get back on track and have confidence that you will make the change you desire.

    Great tips and strategies here – thank you!

  5. Great ideas Zeenat. Changing habits isn’t always easy as we all know. I would add one that has recently worked for me. If possible put yourself in an entirely different environment ie take a holiday or some such…just a week away. I’ve found being away and enjoying a new found freedom from the usual routine allows me to return, refreshed, renewed and with a determination not to return to old habits, but to create new ones.

    It’s working so far…been back a couple of weeks…and I’m liking my new habits. 🙂

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