If you’ve already abandoned your New Year’s resolutions, don’t despair. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off … and start fresh today

By Hillary Torchin

I have the remnant of a bad habit left over from my nail-biting days … I pick the cuticle of my right thumb when I’m nervous or feeling anxious. It sticks out of my French-manicured hands like what it is: a sore thumb. My daughter regularly points out that it’s a terrible and gross habit, but it’s a difficult one for me to break. I know I should quit, yet it has become a comfort in a way.

How many of us have realized that there are bad habits we cling to because we’re so used to them, and somehow find them comforting? Humans are very habitual by nature—we have automatic behaviors that can only be changed with patience and persistence.

This spring is as good of a time as any to clean out the cobwebs and freshly evaluate ways to eliminate bad habits.

Even small efforts can create big changes. Tapering off a bad habit is better than doing nothing at all. It’s been written that if you do something for 30 days straight, it becomes habitual for you. At 90 days, the new habit should be as easy to keep as the old habit was. At one year, the new habit should be a part of your daily life. Remember, it’s going to take some time getting used to doing something different, and it may feel uncomfortable until you are conditioned to it.

It’s a good idea to evaluate your undesired bad habit, and make a conscious decision to break it. Getting support from those around you by announcing that you are working on quitting a bad habit can be helpful. Set incentives or gifts for yourself along the way as a reward for achieving your goals. As you set these rewards, list out some consequences for yourself if you fall back into your bad habit. Between rewards and consequences, you are more likely to stick with your new pattern.

Also, think about what you will do to replace the habit that you’re trying to break. For instance, it has been suggested to me that I try needlepoint to keep my fingers busy.

To move on in your habits, you must move on in your life. And that means distancing yourself from the old in both physical and tangible ways. Maybe the others in your household are ready to change their bad habits too and it can then become a team effort. The more changes you can make to support quitting your bad habit and instilling good habits, the more successful you will be.