Guide on How to Break Bad Habits

🗓 2. September 2021   ✍ ️Samuel Bednár

We all struggle with bad habits daily. It might be challenging to overcome unwanted habits – if it’s smoking, gaming, biting the nails, or a late-night sleep. The primary key to success is to understand how it works. There is no general answer that works for everyone. The crucial step at the beginning is realizing negative behaviors, deciding to fight them, and carefully observing them.

👉 Are you a heavy smoker?
👉 Are you spending way too much time on social media? 
👉 Are you constantly sleeping in?

It is not easy to break the habit. It develops slowly with repetition – and it can diminish in the same slow way. First, you need to understand the habit pattern, which can help you consequently break the loop.

Identify the triggers

Triggers are essential elements for identifying patterns. Triggers might be emotional (stress, boredom, loneliness, etc.), situational or environmental. You wake up, and the first thing you do is grabbing your phone? The loop of scrolling on social media has just started. Do you feel stressed or nervous before an important meeting, and you light a cigarette? Often, it is a combination of more triggers. You might have a bad habit glued to a particular location, e.g., you come to work and go smoking with your colleagues despite being relaxed and content.

How long does it take to break the habit?

You came across a magical period – 21 days, 30 days, 66 days to create a new habit. Author of best-selling book Atomic Habit, James Clear, claims there is no magical period for breaking a habit. Rather than time, repetition and frequency are the keys. He suggests that once you get rid of a bad habit, it is no longer a habit but a lifestyle to be lived. It becomes part of your identity until the moment you don’t have to think about it.


Mindfulness is the key to help you take a deep breath and realize the trigger that causes the bad habits. Try to answer the following questions:

👉 What is the current emotional state?
👉 What happened before you felt the urge to fall for this bad habit?
👉 Who is around you, or are you alone?
👉 Is it repeating at a specific time?
👉 Where had you been when you started to have the cravings?

Having these answers, identify key actions. Then mark them down in the Daylio app. You can also write down short notes in the note section to help you put activities in context.

“Self-doubt is the greatest enemy of any new good habit.” —Victoria Moran

Long way home

Breaking a bad habit can be incredibly demanding. Patience helps you to see small steps of improvement and celebrate the wins. Reward yourself for the hard work, tell your friends or family to support you on the way, and focus on the progress you have made rather than the final result. 

If you were smoking whole packages and you are down to a couple of cigarettes, it’s a huge success. Certain bad habits are deeply integrated into the behavior and cause you actual discomfort and stress. In that case, it is wise to consider a mental health professional who can help you identify changes you want to achieve, blockers and motivators you struggle with, and help you to overcome the negative self-talk you might suffer.


Remember three steps of overcoming a bad habit. 

  1. Keep away from the trigger.
  2. If the trigger comes, acknowledge it and react.
  3. Start curbing it or replace a bad habit with a good one… or, you know, a less bad one.

It is not your goal to break the habit entirely but rather to substitute it with more positive behavior. It is much easier to steer a running truck than it is to stop it.

What can I do next?

Today, we have great companions who can help us – our phones. We keep them around, so no need to add more clutter to your day.

One of the best apps is Daylio. They integrate journaling with goal tracking. Daylio makes it easy to mark your goal, get reminders and track your progress. What is even better, they have curated goal groups called challenges. When your goal is part of your daily routine, you can even map it to your journal activity and gather more insights in relation to your mood and other activities.

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