December is that time of year when we enjoy the holidays and being close to those we love and care about. We also begin to reminisce about the year and look forward to new beginnings and changes. The New Year is a time to reflect on ourselves, to figure out what we can do to make positive changes going forward. You may be struggling with certain habits that aren’t right for your lifestyle anymore. Breaking bad habits is tricky and a long journey ahead. But it’s not impossible to accomplish once we figure out where these habits come from and what good ones we can make.

According to New In Health, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug and Abuse, “Habits play an important role in our health. Understanding the biology of how we develop routines that may be harmful to us, and how to break those routines and embrace new ones, could help us change our lifestyles and adopt healthier behaviors.” Habits are created through repetition; we are on a mental autopilot when doing our daily routines. Habits can also develop when good experiences trigger the brain to believe this is a reward. 

Dr. Russell Poldrack, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas, states that these behaviors of positivity can make your brain release the chemical dopamine which triggers positivity. This solidifies the habit and makes you feel satisfied every time it’s done. This craving to do it again can be triggered. So, what steps can we take to slowly break these habits down? Well, I have five tips to start that can make a huge difference in your New Year.


5 Tips to Break Bad Habits 

These five wonderful tips were curated by James Clear, who is a specialist and has been doing research and professional talks about habits since 2012. 

  1. Self-awareness – Keeping track of the moment when the habit occurs can be the starting point. To figure out the root of the habit, you must ask yourself these questions: When does your bad habit happen? How many times do you do it each day? Where are you? Who are you with? What triggers the behavior and causes it to start?


  1. Visualize Success – Sometimes just saying we are going to change our habits isn’t enough. Before we even begin, we can picture ourselves doing it. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and visualize yourself stopping that habit you want to break. It can be anything, if you want to stop eating junk food, stop biting your nails if you are breaking an addiction of some kind; visualization can help ingrain it in your head. Once the idea is in your head and you can see it happening, this will help create that into a reality.


  1. Cut Out Triggers – When performing your bad habits there may be something triggering it. It may be an individual(s), a materialistic item, a sound, a visual thought, or an event; it’s best to not interact or associate with those things anymore. Keeping your distance and not chasing after it can be difficult. However, the result will help you in the long run. Disassociating yourself with triggers that instigate your poor habits can make you stop doing them. It all comes with commitment and time to your well-being.


  1. Spend Time with Those with Good Habits – When trying to break a bad habit we try to gravitate toward those who are doing something we strive for. If there is a goal or a habit you want to do, someone else might be performing that good habit flawlessly. If there is someone you admire or a friend that has some ideas you’d like to try, definitely spend more time with them. Ask for advice and participate in good habits and behaviors. You may be surprised when it soon becomes your natural habit as well. Friends can be a great inspiration and support system when it comes to making good changes for yourself.


  1. Replace the habit with a good one – Lastly, it’s not just an accomplishment to get rid of only the bad habit. When breaking a bad habit, you may relapse and start it again. The key that some people tend to miss is once that habit is gone, what do you do next? One great solution that can help you stick to leaving the bad habit for good is replacing it with a good one.

If you want more specifics on breaking bad habits, then read his book Atomic Habits


5 Good Habits to Try Out

Breaking bad habits doesn’t just go away, sometimes relapses happen and you can go back to step one. The key to truly breaking a negative habit is to add good habits to replace them. Instead of going cold turkey, you are adding new habits habits that will be repetitive and good for your routine. Here I have compiled a list of the top five good habits people are planning for 2023. 

  1. Reading – It’s time to gain more knowledge and what better way than to read a few books? If you have been struggling with educating yourself, being more social, or even trying to pick up a book; now is the time to find a special book that clicks with you. Reading is a great way to educate yourself in many subjects and just for entertainment and deep thinking. You can spark a conversation and it helps your brain relax before bedtime. Make it a new routine to devour a story or factual text.


  1. Positive People – Negative people are a pain to deal with, especially if they are a close relative, a friend, or a coworker. When these people are part of our daily lives, that can start some bad habits. However, surrounding yourself with people who encourage and support you, have healthy habits, and are on a path you aspire to be; can make you one step closer to a positive lifestyle and mindset.


  1. Social Media Detox – All social media platforms are an addiction and cause many mental health situations. Sometimes we need a break from it all: liking, following stories, sharing photos, and the latter. Now is the time to regain control of the time you spend on your phone. Some examples are you can turn off your notifications, so you aren’t tempted to look, set a time limit for media use, or go extreme and delete the apps entirely until the next year. The key is to gain some control over how you use media because there are better uses for your time.


  1. Self-Care – Taking better care of our bodies and minds is a routine we can always use. Self-care such as a face cleaning regimen or sleeping at a reasonable hour are just a few of the many ways you can relax and take care of your body. Other ideas for mental health self-care are to go to therapy, take walks, and do meditation.


  1. Healthier Eating – Junk food is a reliable source that we may go to too often. It’s time to cleanse your palette and add more nutritious items to our plates and bowls. If you go to fast-food chains too often, definitely limit them to once in a blue moon. Shop for low-carb alternatives, sodium, or calories. Explore new dishes that are healthy for your gut, heart, and blood. These small changes can impact you greatly.

Habits are a part of our daily lives, whether you are aware of all of them or not. For very minor to severe habits that can be dangerous to you, or impact loved ones, remember to seek professional help and care. We all want to have a fresh start and breaking any habit that causes you to harm in any way can be a life changer. Exploring good habits to start anew will be rewarding.