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Your Healthy Family: How to break bad habits

Posted at 7:25 AM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 07:25:01-05

We all have bad habits, and with the stress of the holidays or the pandemic, sometimes those bad habits show up even more. But experts say there's a key to breaking the cycle.

From junk food to smoking, experts said the key to stopping the cycle is knowing how the habit is formed.

"It starts with a trigger. Maybe you're bored. Maybe you're stressed. Then comes the behavior, and finally the reward; that feeling of satisfaction," Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a Neurosurgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital said.

Dr. Gupta said a bad habit has to be broken at the "reward phase."

"When you get to that part of the cycle, focus on the way this habit makes you really feel. Take smoking for instance. A study showed that when smokers focused on the way cigarettes taste, and the way it made them feel, those people had a higher success rate of curbing the habit," he said.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, breaking bad habits starts with preparing yourself to be uncomfortable, creating a game plan, and setting realistic goals. Also, establish incentives to keep going in the right direction. Maintain your goals by having a strategy to help in times you feel challenged. Keep temptation away, and recognize it's a journey.

"So, the next time you reach for your smart phone, that extra piece of pizza, that glass of wine, ask yourself how it really makes you feel and is it worth it," Dr. Gupta said.

He said to be patient; it could take weeks to break a bad habit.