Replace Bad Habits with Good Habits For Better Mental Health

Chase Campbell
March 8, 2024
10 minutes

Bad habits can be detrimental to our lives. There are many bad habits or negative ways that you might deal with your mental health issues. We even talked about six of them in the article we wrote called 6 Bad Habits that are Related to Poor Mental Health. But there are methods that can be used to replace good habits with bad habits and help you break the cycle.

If you like to read, you might also consider reading a great book on the topic (perhaps the very best) called Atomic Habits by James Clear. In the meantime, here is a great set of steps you can follow to replace bad habits with good habits and hopefully will also help you with your mental health.

Make a List

The first step involves making a list of all your bad habits. The idea is not to make yourself feel worse. It’s to promote self-awareness. The list may seem overwhelming, but you’ll find that once you break one bad habit, it will be easier to break them all.

Identify the Cause

The next step is to figure out what’s driving you to do the bad habit. For example, do you find you eat junk food after a stressful event? Are you procrastinating to avoid an unpleasant situation? Or is boredom, anxiety or depression fueling a negative behavior?

When you identify the causes, you can recognize when bad habits are coming on. You can stop them in their tracks.

Remove the Temptation

Set your environment and yourself up for success. Removing the temptation isn’t always possible, but it may be in some instances. When it is, do it!

For example, if you eat too much junk food, get rid of the junk food in your home. If cigarettes or alcohol are an issue, throw them out. If you’re on social media too often, put your devices in another room or remove social media from your devices.

Replace the Bad Habit (With a good one)

Dealing with stress or boredom is a part of life. But you can improve your outcomes by replacing bad habits with positive behavior. When you feel the urge to reach for a bag of potato chips, grab some carrot sticks instead. As it relates to the removal of a temptation, place the carrot sticks in the same place you used to keep your potato chips. If stress is getting too much, think of doing meditation. Replace a meditation app or link to YouTube with your favorite guided meditations right where your social media icon used to be on your device.

Here are some other ways to deal with stress in healthy ways:

  1. Journaling
  2. Deep breathing
  3. Reading
  4. Art therapy (drawing, painting, playing music, dance)
  5. Exercise
  6. Make Other Changes

Experts believe that it’s difficult to overcome bad habits because they become an automatic part of our routines. Research shows that they are linked to the autopilot part of our brain, AKA the basal ganglia. They theorize that breaking other parts of your routine makes it easier to change your habits. Try rearranging your room so you are not on autopilot. It may help you overcome your bad habits.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over Failures

As humans, it’s natural to slip up. If you find yourself falling back on bad habits, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, focus on why it happened and what you can do to keep it from happening again.

Reward Yourself

Incentives and rewards will make you more likely to stick to a healthy schedule. Tell yourself that if you go one week without smoking, you will go out for a shopping trip. Or take a spa day.

Knowing there’s a reward in your future will help you stick to your good habits.

Keep Moderation in Mind

Not all bad habits need to be eliminated. Some can stay in your life, as long as you keep moderation in mind. For example, if you find yourself on social media too often, that doesn’t mean that you must drop social media completely. Instead, find a window of time for social media.

You may decide to go on social media for an hour a day at a certain time. Stick to that window and you have successfully overcome your bad habit. You can work out something similar with junk food. Allow one day with perhaps one meal of the week for indulgences. That way, you won’t feel deprived and it will make it easier for you to stick to a healthy routine.

Don’t Give Up

Bad habits are hard to break. It won’t happen overnight. Start by setting small goals for yourself. For example, you may start by not eating junk food for a day, then two days, and so on. In time, you will build up your willpower and overcome your bad habits.

Talk to Someone (Accountability!)

It will be easier to overcome your bad habits if you have support. A mental health professional may suggest ways to deal with your stressors. Even talking to a friend or relative can help. In addition to serving as a sounding board for your issues, they can hold you accountable for your actions so you don’t fall back on your old ways.

Hanu Health Can Help

The Hanu Health app can  help you break bad habits. We suggest healthy behaviors that replace bad habits.