We are a summation of our habits. That’s not just me, your friendly lymphatic massage therapist, telling you that—it’s science! Whether you invest your time in developing good habits or bad habits is completely up to you.

Want to know how to break a habit for good, according to both science and what I’ve found helpful? Then consider my 7 ways to conquer unhealthy habits below.

The Science Changing Bad Habits

Our brains are designed to help us survive and reproduce. It’s their full-time job.  As a result, the structure of the brain is predisposed to do that which is most rewarding and easy for us.

Researchers have broken down the habit process like this:

Cue—Something happens in our environment which leads to…

Craving—We have a craving to perform an action based on our environment…

Response—We perform a specific action as a response to that craving because we want the…

Reward—That warm fuzzy feeling you get from accomplishing the task.

Remember, this process happens for everything we do! From turning on a light switch (the reward is the light) to the foods we consume.

To change bad habits, we have to interrupt that cycle and replace it with something else. Here are a few effective ways to do that.

Move from a Place of Intention

Intention is the place where your goal is. For example, if you want to eat healthier foods, use that as motivation for not picking up that chocolate cake. Create a strong connection with that which you desire and make a decision to only use that as a reward.

Develop Mindfulness

Often, we rush from one thing to the next during our day. Start developing a mindfulness meditation practice. And yes, that is a good habit itself, but you can start with as little as 1 minute per day. Sit quietly and feel the experience of noninterference while bringing attention to what you’re doing. Add an extra minute each week and soon you’ll bring that mindfulness into other daily tasks, like eating.

Create Replacement Habits

Speaking of replacement habits, think about the good habits you want to create for a moment.

Do you want to be calmer? Stop biting your nails? Stop smoking cigarettes?

One of the best ways to achieve your goal is to create replacement habits. So, instead of reaching for your cigarettes, maybe you pause for a minute or two and meditate. Do the same if you wish to be more peaceful.

Researchers have even shown that doing something simple like eating dark chocolate after working out increases the likelihood of exercise becoming a habit.

Reward your brain when you’re preforming good habits and you’re more likely to stick with it.

Find Your “Why”

Your motivation for changing a bad habit has to be stronger than the reward for staying on the same road. Write down your new habit on a sticky note and then stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Reminding yourself of your ‘why’ increases your motivation to change your habit.

Be Realistic

Good habits are essentially daily goals. Remember to set yourself realistic habit goals. Don’t think you can stop eating fast food forever cold turkey tomorrow if you eat it every day. Start with small goals and then add to them. But always be realistic.

Get Back on Track

If you mess up and miss meditation one day, get back to doing it the next. It isn’t so important that you messed up. It’s more important that you get back to doing it.

Make Your Bad Habits Ugly

Depending on the habit you’re trying to break, make it a point to make it unattractive to you. You can do this by posting pictures of smoker’s lungs if you’re visually motivated. Find a way to make your current habit unattractive and take away the reward.

Developing good habits isn’t easy, but these tips will get you one step closer to your goals. I’ve used these tactics to create good habits for me like quitting drinking coffee and developing a healthy skin routine.

I hope they help you too!