Healthy Living

How to Change Toxic Habits and Be a Happier Person


People can get hyper-focused on forming good habits to live with. They try to exercise regularly, eat healthy, and maintain their overall well-being. While it’s great to form these good habits, your toxic habits could be keeping you from success.

Toxic habits don’t always look like you think they will. They don’t always present as an addiction or condition that needs to be treated.

In order to get rid of your bad habits, you’re going to have to take a few simple steps to unlearn them. Read on to discover what these steps are and how you can start implementing them in your own life.


1. Come to Peace With Them

The first step to defeating toxic habits may be the hardest, but don’t get overwhelmed. You’re already halfway there.

You’ll have to recognize the bad habits for what they are and come to peace with them. Recognizing them has already brought you to the point where you’re reading about how to overcome them, so give yourself a pat on the back for the strength you’ve already shown.

Coming to peace with your bad habits means realizing them for what they are as part of you, but not as your whole identity, as Psychology Today noted. You’re not stuck with them forever. You have the power to defeat them. Once you’re confident in that, you’ll have come to peace with your habits, instead of letting them control the situation.


2. Recognize Their Triggers

Another important step forward is to then recognize what triggers your toxic habits. Let’s say your habit is that you always have to have a can of soda in hand. Do you reach for that can of soda when you’re stressed? Tired? Angry? What thoughts are racing through your head before you open the fridge?

Give yourself time to think about this and really analyze those moments just before you engage with your bad habit. Then have a response prepared for when you see those triggers happen.

Tell yourself that you won’t grab that soda because you don’t drink it. According to Psychology Today, assertive thinking defeats bad habits, because your mind doesn’t have room to fight back. Say this to yourself in your head or out loud, whichever works best for you.

You can also physically remove yourself from the situation by leaving the room and doing something else until the bad habit urge has passed.


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3. Think Through Future Events

You’ve recognized the triggers and stopped from engaging in your toxic habit. Congratulate yourself, because that’s no small task. It takes so much strength to start overcoming a bad habit, so recognize your strength and celebrate it.

After you cheer yourself on, take a moment to remind yourself that it’s going to happen again. There’s no quick solution for toxic habits, so they’ll come back around when they’re triggered again, as Lifehacker noted.

That doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress. Take heart when you defeat them and then set the intention to learn from future mistakes. This is a journey, so be gentle with yourself.


4. Make Small Changes

Some habits can be stopped if you make small changes by replacing what you do in the moment when you feel like you’re about to engage with your toxic habit, as per Productivity Theory.

Imagine that your habit is smoking. What is a good habit you want to replace it with? You might have the goal to eventually exercise regularly. Combine these by doing small exercises whenever you get the urge to smoke.

The act of exercising decreases stress levels, so the stress that’s driving you to smoke or lean on bad habits goes away. It also increases endorphin production, so you finish your workout in a happier state of mind.

A few sit ups, pushups, or a five-minute jog around your neighborhood will distract your mind and help you overcome your habits yet again, without forcing an entirely new lifestyle on yourself all at once.


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5. Write Down Your Thoughts

Everyone has seen the before-and-after photos of people who have worked hard to lose weight. It’s good for people to keep those before pictures with them along their journey so they can see the progress they’re making.

The same goes with breaking toxic habits. Write down your thoughts, successes, and failures in a journal. When you feel discouraged in the future, you can go back to your journal and remind yourself how far you’ve come.

Even if you’ve never journaled before, try it out. It will help you process the steps you’ve taken and provide essential encouragement when you need it most.


6. Prioritize Your Plan

Your toxic habit may have been powerful enough in the past to control your life, your emotions, or even your thoughts. Defeating it will be a major accomplishment, but don’t get too caught up with your end goal.

Commitment has been proven to help people quit habits, by helping them prioritize their plan and not their goal. Yes, it’s good to have that goal in mind and not forget it, but how you’ll get there is even more important.

Try some of these tips and tricks to help yourself commit to a plan:

  • Come up with daily or weekly goals.
  • Celebrate when you meet those goals.
  • Remind yourself of the toxic habits you’re leaving behind.

By dedicating yourself to your plan, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and actually end your toxic habit, rather than fall back into it.


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7. Remember the Rewards

Your goal is to live your life without your toxic habit, but what will be the actual rewards of doing that?

Visualizing these rewards will make your plan to get there so much more important. You might see yourself spending more time with your family, excelling in your job, or making better grades.

Whatever those rewards are, think of them if you find yourself leaning back towards your toxic habit. They’ll encourage you to stick with the plan, because every step forward is what’s going to make that change happen.


8. Ask For Help

One of the most important things you can do to defeat a toxic habit is to realize that you’re not alone. It’s your habit and your responsibility to defeat it, but you have friends and family who love you. They want to help in any way they can, so let them.

When you have the urge to do your old habit, call someone. Ask them to hang out, chat, or even just remind you why you’re fighting this habit.

Feeling like you’re not alone will make the journey to ending your toxic habit less intimidating. And once you actually stop the habit, your loved ones will be ready to celebrate with you.


What do you already do to help break bad habits? Let your fellow readers know in the comments!