Smoking. Biting your nails. Watching too much television. Spending too much on social media.
Everyone has some habits that would like to get rid of and my guess is that you have probably tried… and failed.
It’s not your fault. It’s your brain.
Your brain is secretly sabotaging your efforts to change those bad habits that you’ve been wanting to break.
Your Brain Loves Your Bad Habits
Yes. You know biting your nails makes your fingers look like they got in a fight with a lawnmower.
Yes. You know binge watching 4 hours of Game of Thrones every night is probably not the best idea to further your personal or professional career.
Yes. You realize spending too much time on social media is making you more self-conscious.
The truth is your brain does not want you to change. It loves you just the way you are.
Your brain loves routine and the more your brain engages in a certain routine, habit, or activity, the more the brain lays down wiring to make that process easier for you to accomplish the next time.
The brain finds comfort in these repeated pathways. It’s dependable and stable whereas new activities are unfamiliar and unnatural to your brain.
Try thinking about this.
Imagine that I asked you to either brush your teeth or to try riding a unicycle. Unless you have former experience with riding a unicycle, my guess is just the thought of trying to ride a unicycle made your hand sweat.
Our habits help form smooth “paved” roads in our brain that make our brain feel easy and safe, whereas new activities form rough “unpaved” roads that make our brain feel uncomfortable and resistant.
Your Bad Habits Are “Wired In”
Your brain does not want you to succeed. Your brain wants you to survive.
Forging a new path, a.k.a. a new habit is like taking a journey into the unknown for your brain.
It’s like trying to get out of a hot shower. You know you have to step out in order to go about your day, but it just feels so good back in the shower. Maybe just a few more minutes
This is why your brain seems almost resistant to change. Your brain has literally wired itself from repeated use to make your bad habits easy to do yet hard to break.
Your brain likes the comfort and safety of the knowable and predictable. So if we want to change our bad habits, there are a few things we need to do in order to make the change stick.
How To Break Free From Your Bad Habits
1) Stop Doing Them (Obviously)
Of course, if you want to swap that bad habit for something more useful and helpful in your life, it makes sense that you should stop the bad habit. It’s not helping or serving you.
*We’ll discuss willpower in just a minute.
2) Replace With Something You Want Instead
If you want to get rid of your bad habit, you have to pave a new path for your brain to begin paving. You have to set a new direction.
Do you want to stop watching so much tv? Replace that time with reading, exercise, or meditation.
Maybe you can start working more on that side business you’ve been dreaming of.
3) Attach A Bigger Purpose Behind Your Change
Often times, people try to get rid of a bad habit simply because they believe it’s just a “bad habit” that they should get rid of.
If you really want to get rid of this habit, turn your should into a must.
Get a very clear picture as to why you need to break this habit. Why do you want to break this habit? Why is it important to you? How has this been affecting your life?
How could your life be better if you didn’t have this habit?
Maybe spending too much time on social media is starting to affect your relationships or even your mental wellbeing.
Maybe part of your purpose is to make a big difference and impact in the world. Do you think you’ll be able to do that watching 4 hours of Netflix every night?
If this bad habit isn’t serving you or your bigger purpose in life, get clear on the “why” to add more fuel to your fire.
Without a bigger purpose for why you’re breaking this habit, you’ll find it very challenging to swap the bad habits for good ones.
4) Avoid Will Power
Let’s get practical now.
Breaking bad habits is hard and willpower seems to be the limiting factor for many people that will determine whether you’re able to push through to victory or fall back into old habits.
The trick is to avoid willpower as much as possible.
Every decision you have to make, every time you feel the urge to go back to your old ways, and every time you have to flex your willpower muscle will drain your “willpower tank.” Once it’s gone, you have no more left to give and are vulnerable to falling back to your old ways.
The key is to avoid having to make those difficult decisions and choices to begin with. Let’s look at a personal example.
I wanted to start waking up early and working out in the morning. This meant I had to be up at 4:30 am. Ouch.
Will Power v.s. My Warm Bed at 4:30 am?
Willpower wasn’t going to last long.
So here’s what I did.
- I planned to go to bed an hour earlier. I set a time where I committed to be in bed by.
- I put my phone out of arms reach to force to get out of bed to answer my alarm.
- I set clothes out the night before so I didn’t have to think about what to wear.
- I pre-packed my water and headphones the night before and put them on the counter so I could just head out the door.
Of course, there was still some willpower involved, but by avoiding having to use my will power to make certain choices and decisions that could have derailed me, I was able to be successful and create the new habit.
5) Everyday Cross Off The List (Dopamine)
How can you stay motivated during this process?
One of my favorite ways is by hacking your brain neurochemistry, particularly DOPAMINE (naturally). Dopamine is your reward and motivation neurotransmitter involved in feeling pleasure, motivation, memory, and reward.
Studies show having higher levels of dopamine in your brain help you become more motivated to take action. [R]
One simple way you can increase your levels of dopamine naturally is by creating a to-do list and crossing off your accomplished task with a big red “X”.
When you accomplish a task or goal and your brain visually sees the accomplishment, it triggers the brain to release more dopamine, which makes you feel great but also boosts your motivation to keep going.
6) Stay Consistent
It took time for the bad habit to take root and solidify itself in your brain, which means it will take time for your brain to unlearn the bad habit and adopt the new one.
The key is making sure that you are staying consistent with the new habit. The more you engage with the new habit that you want your brain to adapt, the quicker the brain will lay down wiring so that it becomes easier and more comfortable for your brain to do.
If you want to lose 10 pounds, do you think you’ll get your best results going once per week or 4–5 times per week?
Your brain needs consistency to create deeper “grooves” to start wiring itself in a new positive direction.
7) Rinse and Repeat
Once you’ve broken one bad habit, just rinse and repeat with another.
Maybe you’ve discovered other areas of your life that you would like to upgrade. You can use the same strategy with different steps to help you overcome any bad habit you want to remove.
Take The Hack Your Neuroplasticity Course on Udemy!
- 30 video lectures that will give you strategies for diet, movement, and mind to enhance your brain power naturally.
- Includes Intermittent Fasting Starter Guide | 20 Free Workouts | Sleep Hacking Guide | Supplement Guide | & More.
- Learn how to create a lifestyle of constant and never-ending improvement.