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11 Useful Tips That Can Help You Break A Habit For Good

Here’s how you can break the habit! Take the pledge this summer to stand against distracted driving and keep our friends and family safe.

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1. Practice mindfulness to understand your bad habits and beat them.

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Our habits, good and bad, serve a purpose. We brush our teeth every day to promote good hygiene, and maybe you snack at work out of boredom. Before we break our bad habits, it’s helpful to think about why we do the things we do. Researcher and author Dr. Elisha Goldstein suggests that mindfulness can help us establish space between a triggering impulse and our reaction, space to make a healthy choice.

2. Set realistic goals and start small.

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Incremental progress adds up to a big difference. So instead of saying you’ll go to the gym every single morning, look for little ways to increase your fitness, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Start small and identify easy ways to introduce healthy habits in place of bad ones, make it so easy that you can’t say no.

3. Replace bad habits with healthy ones.

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When we understand the underlying urges that drive our bad habits, we can find healthier ways to satisfy our cravings. For example, besides the literal addictive nature of nicotine, many smokers claim cigarettes satisfy an oral fixation. Try replacing cigarettes with flavored toothpicks to scratch that itch without harming your lungs.

4. Set a reminder.

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James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits, has a system called the three R’s to help you turn bad habits into good ones. The first R is set a reminder. This could be a literal reminder like an alarm on your phone or a physical reminder like a sign taped to the wall.

5. Start a new routine.

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The second R in Clear’s system stands for "routine." Routines are a lot like habits, but with a purpose. As we make routines for ourselves, and we stick to them, they become habits. In this way, if you’re trying to break a bad habit or turn negative behavior into healthy behavior, it helps to create a regimen and adhere to it.

6. Reward yourself.

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The third R in Clear's system is “reward yourself.” Our brains reward our bad habits by releasing pleasure hormones like dopamine. To re-train your brain, it's important to give yourself positive reinforcement. You can reward yourself with a little treat or present — or even something as simple as self-praise by telling yourself some positive affirmations. Go you!

7. Track your progress.

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According to psychologist Marie Hartnell-Walker, "researchers have found that just writing out a goal can help you stay on track." By keeping track of your progress, you help cement your new behavior as part of a routine, and you can see your incremental successes stacking up. Your records also help serve as a reminder, creating a system of achievement that feeds into itself.

9. Avoid triggers.

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One way to break a bad habit is to make it more difficult, or even impossible, to engage in that bad behavior. Trying to cut out sugar? Maybe take a different route home so you can avoid passing by your favorite bakery. Trying not to text and drive? Try locking your phone in the glove box before you go. Breaking bad habits is easier when you remove the temptation.

10. Be patient.

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There’s a common misconception that it takes about 21 days for a new habit to form. Sadly, this is the bare minimum, and for most people it takes about 66 days. The currently accepted timeline can be anywhere from two to six months. The bottom line here is that these things take time. Just take it one day at a time.

11. Cut yourself some slack.

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People make mistakes. Don’t get down on yourself if you slip up; just don’t let a little stumble turn into a big fall. When you fault toward your goal, use that as motivation to make the right choice at your very next opportunity. A momentary lapse won’t derail your entire past progress, unless you let it. So forgive yourself and move on.

Learn more about taking a stand against distracted driving! It’s fun and easy.

Simply pledge what type of distracted driving habit you’ll try to break, select an organization that GEICO will make a donation toward, and challenge your friends to drive distraction-free for a good cause.