“I know I’m not supposed to do it, but I just can’t help doing it!”

If this is your frequent litany of woe, I can relate. For example, I spend too much time checking my social media, pig out on the wrong kind of food, or worry myself into catastrophic thinking.

You may have tried the usual strategies: know your triggers, substitute the bad habit with a good one, or getting an accountability partner.

But if you still struggle and relapse every now and then, here are three hacks that helped me tone down my own bad habits. They may or may not work for you. But I bet you can always use another tip or trick to stop doing what you want to stop doing.

Strategy one. Don’t call it a bad habit.

Surprised? Sometimes it is the “forbidden fruit” syndrome at work. You know it’s bad but because it’s bad, you want to do it. It’s like seeing an object tagged with a “do not touch” sign and you strangely feel the urge to touch it anyway.

Try this: there are no good and bad habits, only the useful and useless.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in moral values; there are habits that are not only inherently bad, but downright evil and destructive. But if “forbidden fruit” explains your compulsion, well, tell yourself: “I won’t do [the bad habit] not because it is bad, but because it is useless.”

For example, I used to take 30 minutes or more scrolling down my Facebook. It’s the FOMO in me: perhaps there is an exciting post down the road. Before long, I was behind in what I needed to do at work or in personal pursuits.

I realized that 30-minute scrolling is a lot of non-productive time. So nowadays I just flick down my screen and glance at no more than five posts. I add a little fatalism here: if there is a post I am meant to see, then I will see it. If not, I won’t even know what I am missing, let alone wonder about it.

Define what is useless or unhelpful for you. Does the habit waste your time, drain your finances, undermine your work, make you loathe yourself? If you don’t hesitate to trash a useless document, then why not discard an useless habit?

To be continued.

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