Kick the Habit: Breaking Free from Negative Behaviours

Benjamin Bonetti Therapy Online Coaching

Negative habits can have a significant impact on our daily lives, affecting our relationships, health, and overall well-being. Whether it's smoking, overeating, procrastination, or any other habit that hinders our ability to live a fulfilling life, breaking free from negative behaviours can be challenging.

However, it's not impossible. With the right strategies and mindset, anyone can overcome negative habits and start living a happier, healthier life.

Understanding Habits

Habits are deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour that we often engage in without even realising it. They are formed through repetition and become automatic over time. According to the habit loop model developed by Charles Duhigg, habits consist of three components: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

Habits are formed through a process called "habituation," which involves a series of neurological and psychological processes in the brain. When we repeat a behaviour over time, the neurons in our brain that are associated with that behaviour become more strongly connected. This is called neuroplasticity, and it allows the brain to become more efficient at performing that behaviour. As a result, the behaviour becomes easier and more automatic to perform, requiring less conscious effort or attention.
Additionally, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine when we engage in certain behaviours, such as eating or exercising, which creates a pleasurable sensation and reinforces the behaviour, making it more likely that we will repeat it in the future. Environmental cues, such as a specific time of day, location, or activity, can also trigger the habit loop. Over time, the brain associates these cues with the behaviour, making it more likely that we will engage in the behaviour when presented with the cue. Overall, habits are formed through a combination of repetition, neuroplasticity, reinforcement, and environmental cues. Once a habit is established, it can be difficult to break, but it is possible to change or replace habits through intentional effort and consistent practice.


The cue is the trigger that initiates the habit, such as feeling stressed or seeing a cigarette. The routine is the behaviour or action that follows the cue, such as smoking a cigarette or reaching for a snack. The reward is the positive outcome that reinforces the habit, such as feeling relaxed or satisfied after smoking or eating.

Breaking Negative Habits

Breaking negative habits requires a conscious effort to disrupt the habit loop. This can involve changing the cue, replacing the routine with a more positive behaviour, and finding a new reward that is equally satisfying.

One effective strategy for breaking negative habits is to identify the underlying triggers that lead to the habit. For example, if stress is the cue that triggers overeating, finding alternative ways to manage stress such as exercise or mindfulness can help break the habit.

Another strategy is to replace the negative behaviour with a more positive one that still provides a similar reward. For example, if smoking is the routine that provides relaxation, finding a new way to relax such as taking a warm bath or practicing deep breathing can help replace the smoking habit.

It's important to note that breaking negative habits is not easy and may require multiple attempts. It's important to have a growth mindset and be patient with oneself during the process .

Professional Help

In some cases, professional help may be necessary to break negative habits. Leading therapists often use cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. CBT involves exploring the root causes of negative habits and developing practical skills for breaking them.

Another approach is motivational interviewing, a counselling method that helps individuals find the motivation and confidence to change negative behaviours. This approach involves exploring the individual's ambivalence about changing the habit and helping them identify their own reasons for making the change.


Breaking free from negative habits can be a challenging but rewarding process. By understanding the habit loop and developing practical strategies for breaking negative habits, anyone can overcome negative behaviours and live a happier, healthier life.

It's important to have a growth mindset and be patient with oneself during the process, and to seek professional help if necessary. With the right mindset, support, and strategies, anyone can kick the habit and live their best life. 

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