in Language & Culture

Some habits are easier to break than others (like giving up cigarettes), but that doesn’t mean there is a quick fix to overcome any of them. Conventional wisdom holds that a habit can either be formed or replaced in 21 days. But those who are still struggling to exercise more or weight know that it’s not as simple as saying “no.”  The first step to breaking your bad habits is to identify them and recognize their impacts on your life. After realizing that those habits are damaging your health, relationship or career, you should have the motivation and commitment to change.

Bad Habits

One of the ways to help you shake your bad habits is to avoid situations in which you would usually default to your undesirable behavior. For example, people with alcohol problems are often encouraged to avoid the people and places where they used to drink. So if you have a habit of snacking, you should avoid walking near a candy store and remove sweets and fatty foods from your home. When tempted to overspend, you should stay out of the sales aisle or boycott the mall altogether.

But not all situations can be avoided. You may want to limit your time spent in front of a screen, but your job already requires you to be in front of a computer for at least 40 hours a week. And if you always fidget while giving presentations at work, you can’t just disregard your boss’ command to introduce your project to board members. When you find yourself unable to change your circumstances, psychologists suggest that you replace your bad habit with a new behavior. For example, in order to cope with stress, your brain might be telling you to smoke, bite your nails, or clench your jaw. Instead of simply eliminating those behaviors, you should come up with a new way to deal with the stress.

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Maneesh Sethi, founder of Hack the System, chose neither of the above methods; instead, in 2012, he hired a woman to slap him every time he went on Facebook. Applying the same logic, Sethi has recently created Pavlok, a wearable device that can help you break unwanted habits by shocking you out of them.  You might not be fond of punishment, but the device has proven quite popular as it has thus far accumulated nearly $120,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo since its debut on September 30th, more than double its goal of $50,000.

If you’d rather skip the electro shock therapy, there are many other alternative methods you can use to stamp out undesirable habits. Really,  it doesn’t matter which method you choose, as long as you’re committed to making a change.


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