5 Steps To Breaking A Bad Habit

One of the most important things you can do for your health is to learn how to break bad habits that stand in the way of you being the healthiest, happiest version of you!  Many health issues don’t happen because of one-time decisions, they happen because of habits -- behaviors you repeat over and over and over again that add up over a long period of time.   

Breaking a bad habit -- whether it’s smoking tobacco, eating junk food or being too sedentary -- is never easy, but when you follow these five steps, you’ll be well on your way!

  1. Understand the habit you want to change.  

           Some questions to ask yourself are, “How is this habit negatively affecting me?”  “What factors contributed to this habit developing?”  “What emotional or psychological need am I trying to meet with this behavior?”  

      2)  Identify your motivation for changing this habit.

           Do you want to live longer?  Reduce your risk for a specific disease like lung cancer, diabetes or heart disease?  Be more active with your kids?  Sleep better?  Whatever your reason for getting rid of your bad habit, you’ll need to keep refocusing on this motivation to keep you going when you get tired, frustrated or discouraged.

      3)  Remember that habits aren’t erased; they’re replaced.

           Instead of simply getting rid of a negative habit, replace it with a positive one.  If you’re stressed after work, go for a 30 minute walk instead of binge-watching a show.  If you like to have something in your mouth while you’re doing yardwork, suck on candy or chew sugar-free gum instead of reaching for a cigarette.  Drink sparkling water instead of high-calorie cocktails.  Fill the negative void with a positive habit, and you’ll set yourself up for success!

       4)  Reward yourself!

            Habits are never easy to break, and by definition it takes time to create lasting change (experts say it takes 21-30 days to break most bad habits).  So identify milestones along this journey, and reward yourself when you achieve them.  If you go a week without smoking, take the money you saved and buy yourself something special.  Reward weight loss by getting a manicure.  There are lots of little ways to use positive reinforcement to carry you closer and closer to your goal!

       5)  Refuse to quit.

            There will inevitably be bumps on your road of personal transformation.  To overcome these obstacles, try putting inspirational quotes on Post-It notes where you can see them every day.  Remind yourself of your motivation when you get discouraged.  And if (or when!) you slip up, choose to try again.  Insist again that you’re worth it and you can do it. With encouragement, motivation and determination, you can become the happy, healthy version of you you’ve dreamed of being!


If you need help on the road to becoming happy and healthy, we’re here for you!  Schedule an appointment online or simply walk into any of our six locations seven days a week.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on MSNBC.com. She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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