STUDENT COMMENTARY: Learning to Break Bad-Habits

Ashlyn Story

Habits are something everyone possesses, whether they be good or bad. They are formed from a psychological pattern called a “habit loop.” The formation of habits is a three-part process; first there is a cue to your brain that sets it on “auto-pilot” and allows the next part to happen, which is the second step, the actual action itself. The third and final step is the “reward” that your brain feels after completing the action, your brain likes the feeling and remembers it, eventually forming said habit.

Although once formed, habits are hard to break, but not impossible. Examples of the world’s most common habits are following an irregular sleep schedule, meal skipping, sitting for long periods of time, sleeping in contact lenses and makeup, not washing your hands for the recommended time, and biting your fingernails.

If you want to learn how to break these habits, first try to remember to begin being mindful of every step of your routine throughout the day. This can help to remove your brain from “auto-pilot” and allow you to identify the cues causing you to perform your action of habit. Recognizing why you want to rid yourself of specific habits can also serve as incredibly helpful. If your mind is aware of the reasons you should not be performing the action, it may be easier to change the action. You could also attempt to replace the bad or harmful habit with a good one. For example, if you have a habit of sleeping in contact lenses, instead make it a habit to leave your glasses or contact case on the sink next to your toothbrush, that way you will see the item while completing another task, and it will remind you to take your contacts out for the night.

Remember, while training your mind to break a habit, you must start small and gradually work your way to completely ridding yourself of the behavior. Some habits are easier to break than others, so be gentle with your mind and understand you will likely have slipups or setbacks. Visualize yourself breaking the habit, and give yourself plenty of time to adjust.