How to Break Bad Habits and Create Healthy Ones

An arrow with a sign bad habits pointing one way and another with good habits point the opposite way


Making “healthy lifestyle changes” is all the rage these days. Quick-fix diets, detoxes, and exercise regimes are being shamed more than they ever have in the past. You may be wondering though, “Where do I even start to build these sustainable lifestyle changes?” The answer: learn how to hack your habits! This will help you break bad habits and create healthy ones.

Everyone has that bad habit they wish they could break. Some common ones I hear about often are: snacking in front of the TV, the daily latte, stopping on your way home from work for fast food, or wandering into the breakroo

m for a treat when you aren’t even hungry.

We also have those good habits we wish we could just get started with. How many times have you promised yourself you’d hit the gym 5 days a week or drink more water?

Changing your habits is tough! The phrase “old habits die hard” exists for a reason. The majority of our habits are actually good for us! Completing certain tasks on autopilot frees up brain space and eases the stress of constantly making decisions. The trouble is that our brain does not distinguish between good and bad habits. Once something becomes part of your routine, your brain wants you to keep doing it whether or not it’s helpful or harmful. While changing our habits may not be simple, with some tips and tricks it is certainly achievable.


Our brains love habits because they serve a purpose. Think about how you automatically stop at a red light while driving. You have adopted this habit to keep you safe! Take time to gain clarity on the habit you want to change and identify what purpose it is serving you. Is it bringing you comfort, increased satisfaction, keeping you from being bored, or providing a distraction? The first step is owning the problem habit and increasing your awareness of its underlying cause.

Women holding an apple and a donut demonstrating bad habits vs good habits


The biggest mistake people make when trying to change a habit is to eliminate it without finding a replacement. Remember, even a bad habit was serving you in some way so you need to find something else that will bring you a similar benefit. You should have a plan in place ahead of time for what you will do instead when a trigger prompts your bad habit. For example, if you are trying to cut out wine every night, think about another drink, such as flavored sparkling water, that you can put in your wine glass to practice self-care.


Once you have identified the habit you want to change, and its replacement, write it down. Put it on a sticky note, the background of your phone, or anywhere else you can remind yourself of your goal daily. You will want to stick to your new habit for at least 30 days. Consistency will make the process easier over time. Accountability partners will also help. It is tempting to keep the change you want to make a secret (who wants to admit failure right?), however, a strong support system is a powerful motivator.


We all slip up. You are human. Be patient and allow yourself grace. You are in this for life, so it is normal to experience bumps along the way while trying to break bad habits. When you catch yourself thinking that you aren’t doing “good” enough, finish that thought with something positive. For instance, “I skipped the gym today, but I did go 2 times earlier this week.” Or “I am struggling right now, but it will get easier.”

As Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit, there is no secret formula for quickly changing any habit. We, as individuals, are all different and so are our behaviors and reasons for those behaviors. However, the tips above should give you a strong starting place to help reshape your health and fitness habits for good!