Giving up bad habits

The new year is a time for resolutions and a time to make a strong commitment to giving up bad habits.

The new year brings new opportunities and a chance to reflect on last year and make positive plans for the coming year. It’s a time for resolutions and a time to make a strong commitment to giving up bad habits.


What is a habit?


A habit is a pattern of behaviour that you do over and over, often unconscious of it, and often learned and rewarded over time.

What are some typical bad habits?

  • Alcohol, drugs, smoking.
  • Shopping, gambling.
  • Watching too much television.
  • Workaholic.
  • Overeating.


Some people have bad interpersonal habits

  • A ‘yes’ person – someone who is never assertive.
  • Negative thinking habits – people who are pessimistic or always throw a negative slant on things.
  • Behavioural habits – always running late, messy, neglect your family.
  • A person who never listens.
  • A person who always argues and is aggressive.


So how do you work towards giving up bad habits?

Let’s go through the stages in giving up a bad habit:

Stage 1 – Lack of awareness and denial

The person does not believe they have a problem, but a trigger sets off stage 2; Recognition. For example, their partner leaves them, they lose their job, they become sick as a direct result of their bad habit.


Stage 2 – Recognition stage

At this stage no action is taken yet, but the person starts to contemplate taking action. They may start asking out loud or thinking:

    • How am I going to go about doing this?
    • Do I really want to give up this habit? (How motivated am I?)
    • Do I really feel I can do this? (How confident am I that I can break this habit?)


At this stage it can be useful to do a Benefits vs Costs analysis – write a list of all the costs (financial and other) and all the benefits of not having this habit, and compare. The more benefits you can identify, the more motivation you will have to focus and break the habit. Sometimes it is one major benefit that will be the motivation.


Stage 3 – Planning

This is the stage when you have made a decision to act and to do something to change your life.

You can say to yourself “I want to change, I’m motivated – How do I do it?”.


You will need the following:

    • Have a plan.
    • Decide what method to use.
    • Do it with a pal or a group.
    • Manage your environment – less temptation.
    • Make a public commitment – tell others.
    • Use the power of your mind, use “positive scripts” to help you through.
    • Visualise the outcome (for example, not smoking anymore).
    • Focus on the benefits.


Stage 4 – Action

This is the time to put your plan into action. Don’t put off starting. Without action all the planning and intention is dreaming.


Stage 5 – Maintenance

Analyse and avoid triggers – for example, going to a bar with friends who smoke, is not a good idea when giving up smoking.

Reward your progress and learn from setbacks – but don’t give up.

Tell friends what you have achieved and be proud of yourself.

Teach others how to do it. Stay focused and committed.

After a period of time you will have a new positive habit or behaviour, and you can look back and see that your bad habit is in the past.


Play See the video Giving Up Bad Habits







By Eve Ash, psychologist and Managing Director, Seven Dimensions, and co-producer with Peter Quarry of Giving Up Bad Habits (from the TAKE AWAY TRAINING SERIES © Ash.Quarry Productions,





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