How long does it take to break a bad habit?

Breaking bad habits and replacing them with more powerful ones takes self awareness, motivation and hard work. What I aim to do below is offer some free advice that may help you make progress. How long does it take to break a bad habit?

To break a bad habit we first need to understand what causes bad habits?

Most of our bad habits are caused by two possibilities…

Anxiety or Stress and boredom.

Most of the time, the bad habit of smoking is linked to a way of handling stress and boredom.

The interesting thing is this , if we cast our minds back to before we started smoking we used to handle stress  and boredom differently. We never used to pick up a cigarette when we were anxious or had nothing else to do. Without a doubt I can say our habit started innocently, gained momentum and then transformed the way we handle our daily lives without even thinking about it. That is how habits form.

To contemplate deeply on what the initial cause of our bad habit
of smoking was, is very important if we want to break the habit.

In my case the initial cause was extreme stress caused by the end of a 22 year old marriage. I had never smoked before , was out with a friend and thought, what the heck give me a beer and a cigarette. The initial high or feeling I received or reward was that of a calming effect. After 4 years of smoking I don’t get that effect anymore. But the habit started, gained momentum and was used to cope with healing from a divorce. It cemented itself deep inside my mind , sub consciously.

So to start my suggestion is this:

Ask yourself what were the reasons you picked up your first

Can you link it to a stressful circumstance?

Were you under peer pressure at the time?

Were you bored?

We don’t break a bad habit, we replace it with another more powerful habit that serves us better.

Because the bad habit of smoking gives us pleasure ( It does actually raise dopamine or the feel good hormone in our brains) it’s going to be tough for most of us to go Cold Turkey and just stop. I do know of many who have successfully done this, but the vast majority have struggled.

What we have to do is this:

Take a pen and paper and write down all the times you pick up a cigarette. Read it over and over for a few days intermittently until you can recite when you habitually smoke.

It could be when you have your morning coffee, when you are driving, when you pick up a call on your cell phone, when you feel anxious, after sex, after eating.

It doesn’t matter what it is, write it down in point form.


How to start breaking the bad habit.

Instead of trying to cope with all the times you have a cigarette which would overwhelm you, try to replace one of the times you smoke and replace it with another habit.

Choose just one on your paper and write what habit you will replace it with. So you may say, instead of lighting a smoke when I am stressed driving my car in the traffic I am going to learn to breathe deeply and put on my favorite music. Find what works for you and make sure it’s rewarding! The new habit you form during that particular event needs to be more rewarding than the cigarette you are replacing. Once you have found what works stick to it for at least 21 days. A new habit will start to gather momentum and you will feel a great sense of progress without feeling overwhelmed by having to replace all the times you smoke with a new habit at once.

You may have set backs. Don’t beat yourself up. Just keep going until you are comfortable that anew habit has formed and then add another time that you smoke and repeat the same process.

It’s all about Creating Self Awareness.

To enhance what I have said above think about this.

In essence, the starting point we must engage with in breaking bad habits, is to start with self awareness. And that in itself requires a new habit. You see most of us don’t practice the art of reflection.

In other words taking time to think carefully of what happened during the day. What made us smoke, what calmed us down if anything. Keep training your mind to question daily or at any given moment on how you are feeling. Get up off your chair, go outside for a few minutes and contemplate what you are feeling in that moment. Be self-aware ! Practicing this technique brings us more in tune with our daily habits, emotions and actions and can assist in breaking bad habits. Most of all be patient. Changes don’t happen over overnight . It wasn’t over overnight that we started smoking 10, 20, or 30 a day and it will take time to return to our old self


How long does it take to break a bad habit? It takes time !  It takes effort Breaking bad habits and replacing them with more powerful ones takes self awareness, motivation and hard work. Make a start, have a battle plan in place, and don’t give up. if you suffer a relapse, dust yourself off and try again. Be aware of what situations, thought patterns or events set you back and work on getting stronger each day.

If you wish to email me for further help please feel free to do so at craig@stop-smoking.net

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