How We Break Habits (For Real)

Mindfulness and curiosity.

With my Summer TV Blackout – the 21 day detox of no TV (including Netflix online) – I’ve been thinking again how we break bad habits. If you’ve had a problem with food, smoking, drinking or even procrastinating, you know that quitting something isn’t as easy as it seems.

Habits create connections in our brain make-up and changing them is a process or we could end up right back at the start again, doing the thing we never wanted to do again.

I found this really great TED Talk about the science of how we create habits, and how we break them.


Not to spoil it for you, but it comes down to being mindful and curious. Instead of white-knuckling it through the craving, sit with it and be curious. Be curious about what your body really wants.

For example:

You want chocolate cake even though your goal is to lose some weight: what is my body needing that it thinks chocolate cake will fill.

You’re craving a cigarette after you’ve quit. What is triggering this craving? Boredom, sadness, stress?

Then – find another way to offer your body what it really wants.

Find a healthy snack that satisfies instead of cake. Find something to do that satisfies why you are triggered instead of smoking.

If you’re not sure why, don’t feel bad – it’s hard to pinpoint at first. Just be curious.

Here’s an exercise to try.

Sit down with the craving as if it were a friend (a nagging friend, and still a friend). Ask questions about it with compassion and understanding. Just be curious about the answers.

  • Why do you think I need {insert bad habit}?
  • How do you think it will make me feel if I do {insert bad habit}?
  • How am I rewarded for this habit? What consequences do I face if I don’t change?
  • What types of things can I do that would be better for me than {insert bad habit} and would make me feel how I want to feel from {insert bad habit}?

Be mindful about your choices – especially when you choose the bad habit. Be curious about if it is actually serving you in the way you’d like or if there is something that you’d find much more beneficial.

We have to replace bad habits with good, 99coverhealthy substitutions because without moderation, anything can become more destructive than constructive.

So for my friends that are on the TV Blackout with me, I’ve created a downloadable list, 99 Things To Do & TV Ain’t One. Although created for this challenge, it can be used for anything. Improve your creativity, abundance, mindset or physical health with activities offered to go enjoy the summer!

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