Career > Motivation > 8 Ways to Break Your Bad Habits – A Psychologist’s Tips

8 Ways to Break Your Bad Habits – A Psychologist’s Tips

If you want to break your bad habits (eg, smoking, binge eating, nail biting), check out these tips from a psychologist and author. He explains how to achieve your goals and get what you want out of life!

Before the tips, a quip:

“Each time you do something new you become something new,” says psychologist Kenneth Herman, author of Secrets From the Sofa.

Some of these tips for breaking bad habits are directly from Dr Herman, and others are from my own experiences with quitting smoking and breaking my “binging on the worst foods you could eat” unhealthy eating habit!

If you’re struggling with life in general, read Secrets from the Sofa: A Psychologist’s Guide to Achieving Personal Peace. You’ll change your life and achieve a greater sense of purpose.

But if you just want to break a few bad habits, read these tips from a psychologist… 

How to Break Your Bad Habits and Start Good Ones

1. Determine what you want to change. To achieve your goals, you need to know where you’re going. “Start fresh by getting clear about what you want,” says Dr Herman. “What is your heart’s desire? What do you want to accomplish or attain? If nothing was holding you back from realizing your dreams, what would make you happy?”

2. Examine your current approach. What are you presently doing, and is it taking you closer to or away from your goals? “Don’t stay with what is safe and comfortable,” says Dr Herman. Be ruthless when you look at your current approach, and work on overcoming the obstacles to achieving your goals.

3. Make a specific plan. To break bad habits, be clear and specific. If you want to quit smoking, for instance, figure out the exact steps that will get you there – whether that’s seeing a doctor, researching the nicotine patch, or taking up jogging (I took up jogging, and after a year my cravings passed).

4. Seek practical solutions. “If you’re afraid of swimming or lack the skill to play tennis, take lessons,” says Dr Herman. “Don’t find fault with yourself. Find out what you have to do to change your life and break bad habits, and do it.” To start good habits, find practical ways to deal with your behaviors and cravings.

5. Implement healthy substitutions. My bad habit is binging on unhealthy foods. I’ve learned not to force myself to stop what I’m compelled to do. Instead, ride the horse in the direction it’s going! For me, this means I give in to my nervous eating habit – but instead of munching on potato chips and cookies, I delve into apples, raisons, grapes, and canned peas (don’t ask; it works for me, and that’s what counts!). My substitutions satisfy my emotional needs, which helps me stick with my good habits.

6. Try different ways to get what you want. “If we continue doing the same things, we will get the same results,” says Dr Herman. When you’re working to achieve your goals, you need to try different ways to break bad habits. He says, “If what you try does not work out – then try again! There is no such thing as a failure. Failed attempts are simply practicing to get things right.”

7. Find your tribe. Here’s a tip from a life coach: “Get supportive folks in your camp,” says Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Take Yourself to the Top. “Join a group of like-minded folks, team up with a good friend, hire a coach or otherwise include people who want the best for you and will keep you on track.” If you know someone who wants to break their bad habits, invite him or her to be an accountability buddy. Check in with each other regularly to make sure you’re on track.

For more psychology tips, read How to Achieve Your Personal Goals in 7 Steps.

8. Reward yourself. This is the most pleasant tip for breaking bad habits: celebrate your successes! Rewarding yourself regularly keeps you energized and motivated. My favorite rewards are weekend getaways or overseas vacations…but I also love full-body massages and sushi dinners. To stay motivated, reward yourself in big and little ways 🙂

Are your bad habits related to your past, or feelings of disgust or hatred towards yourself? Read 10 Reasons to Forgive Yourself for the Bad Things You Did.

If you have any tips for breaking bad habits, please comment below.

For more info about Dr. Kenneth Herman and his award winning personal growth book, visit Secrets from the Sofa.


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7 thoughts on “8 Ways to Break Your Bad Habits – A Psychologist’s Tips”

  1. The best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. My most current bad habit is eating mindlessly in front of the TV…and I’m trying to replace it with a good habit. My problem is figuring out a good habit that I like as much as eating in front of the TV!

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Gerry. I’m glad you quit smoking — it’s a bad habit that’s tough to break, but it sounds like the worst is behind you…

  3. Of all these tips for breaking bad habits, I like #5 and #7 the best. Finding people to support me has helped me quit smoking, and so has “implementing healthy solutions.” I chew gum instead!

    But it’s still a struggle.

  4. Thanks for your comments! One of my favorite quotations about breaking bad habits: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

    I guess the best way to break a bad habit is to do new things, so you get new results.

  5. Great post Laurie! I like the 8 tips format and this quote especially:

    “Each time you do something new you become something new,” says psychologist Kenneth Herman, author of Secrets From the Sofa.

    Practical, good advice. Glad I found the site!

  6. Laurie,

    I’m glad I stumbled across this post because you have reassured me that I am on to something with the new social network my wife and I recently developed. It is a social network dedicated to squashing bad habits & developing good ones.

    In relation to your list, NüHabits encourages people to add habits (1), describe them – their triggers – their warning signs (2), list potential strategies (3), seek advice from those with specific experience regarding the habit (4), live it (5), experiment (6), find others who are working on changing the same things (7), and track their time in the solution (8). Woo hoo!

    I just added your rss to my reader. It’s nice to meet you. Don’t be a stranger.

    Best Wishes,
    Derek @ NüHabits