10 Ways To Break Your Unhealthy Habits

Whether it’s your lack of exercise, poor food choices, excess alcohol consumption, lack of sleep or {Fill in your unhealthy habit here}— these are all things that we know aren’t the best for us, so why can’t we seem to stop? 

I get asked a lot, “How long will it take me to build new habits?” And most people say they have heard it only takes 21 days—I hate to say it, but this is not accurate. Experts agree that there's no typical time frame for breaking a habit, and a lot is going to depend on personality, motivation, circumstances, and the habit in question. During my studies at DePaul, we learned a lot about the research on behavior change and the consensus is give yourself at least 2 months. I say this to not discourage you, but to encourage you to stay consistent and keep pushing!

 To start, most unhealthy habits are formed in response to some sort of stress in our life: let’s be real we all have some sort of stress—most its from work, the demands of motherhood, family and the list goes on. It makes it harder to change when these unhealthy habits, like overeating, are fueled by stress because they are our “comfort zone” behaviors and temporarily (key word temporary) make us feel better. its a vicious cycle.

They saying “where there is a will, there is a way”, has a lot of truth. People who want to kick their habit for reasons that are aligned with their personal values will change faster than people who are doing it for external reasons (pressure from others)

With the right amount of strength, mental and physical ability and motivation— you can do this!!

What is a habit that you need to change?


From Psychology Today they share 10 steps to change unhealthy habits :

  1. Identify the habits you want to change.

     This means bringing what is usually unconscious (or at least ignored) to your awareness. It does not mean beating yourself up about it. Make a list of things you’d like to change, and then pick one.

  2. Look at what you are getting out of it

     In other words, how is your habit serving you? Are you looking for comfort in food? Numbness in wine? An outlet or connection online? Stress alleviation through eating or nail biting? This doesn’t have to be a long, complex process. You’ll figure it out—and you’ll have some good ideas about how to switch it up for healthier outcomes.

  3. Honor your own wisdom.

    Listen to yourself when you are thinking that what you are doing is not good for you. For example, what are you doing with your time? Are you being productive or are you wasting time? you have enough time to workout stop telling yourself you don’t have any time.

  4. Choose something to replace the unhealthy habit.

     Just willing yourself to change isn’t enough because it does not address the underlying benefit of the behavior you want to replace. What can you do instead of standing in front of the fridge when you’re stressed? If you have a plan, you are “armed” with tools and a replacement behavior. Next time you catch yourself standing in front of the refrigerator and not hungry, use the tools and try a replacement behavior. Some ideas: breathe in to the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 8, focusing only on your breathing. Do that 4 times and see how you feel. If you need more support, stand there till you come up with one reason why you shouldn’t continue with this habit. This is a key step. When you do something different to replace an unhealthy habit, acknowledge to yourself that you are doing it differently. You need to bring whatever it is that is subconscious to the conscious mind so that you can emphasize your ability to change. It can be as simple as saying to yourself, “Look at that. I made a better choice.” I have had to refer people to dr.’s and therapists, because as a CPT and CHES, things people want answers about are out of my scope of practice.

  5. Remove triggers.

     If certain foods are a trigger, throw them out or simply don’t buy them. Sometimes certain people are our triggers. Remember that you end up being like the five people you hang out with most. Look at who those people are: do they inspire you or drag you down?

  6. Visualize yourself changing. 

    Serious visualization retrains your brain. In this case you want to think differently about your ability to change—so spend some time every day envisioning yourself with new habits. Exercising and enjoying it, eating healthy foods, fitting into those jeans. See yourself engaged in happy conversation with someone instead of standing in the back of the room. This kind of visualization really works. The now familiar idea that “nerves that fire together wire together” is based on the idea that the more you think about something, and do it, the more it becomes wired in your brain and your default choice can actually be a healthier one for you. I do this. I am a huge proponent of visualization and putting what want out there in the universe.

  7. Monitor your negative self-talk

    Your mind believes what you repeatedly say . When you catch yourself saying, negative things —reframe it or redirect it. Reframing is like rewriting the script. Replace it with, “I’m getting healthy, or “My confidence is growing.” Redirecting is when you add to your negative self-talk of “I’m fat” with “but I’m working my way into a healthier lifestyle.” Judging yourself only keeps you stuck. Retrain the judgy brain.

  8. Take baby steps, if necessary. 

    Even if you can’t follow through 100% right away with a whole new habit, turn something new into habit. For example, if you’ve blocked out an hour to exercise and you have to go to a doctor’s appointment, find another time to squeeze in at least 15 minutes. That way you’ll reinforce that “this is my new habit.”

  9. Accept that you will sometimes falter.

     We all do. Habits don’t change overnight. Remember that it takes a lot longer than 21 days. Love yourself each time you do and remind yourself that you are human.

  10.  Know that it will take time.

    Like I said in the beginning, don’t give up after 21 days. Give yourself time and learn and grow along the way. Remember to recall why you started and how good you will feel!!