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Monday Mom challenge: Breaking bad habits

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Change from the inside

We all have a bad habit or two. Whether it's biting cuticles or jumping to negative conclusions, we all have things we do that maybe we wish we didn't - and sometimes others wish we didn't, too. While some bad habits develop out of nervousness and stress, others have more to do with stubbornness. Wouldn't it be better to channel that nervousness - or stubbornness - to something a little more positive, a little less destructive?

Woman Biting Nails

Deciding to break a bad habit is a big step. It means that you've recognized the habit is less than healthy, possibly a little destructive, and you want to change. And change definitely has to come from the inside. No one can do this except you.

Understand context

First things first, you need to understand the situations in which you engage in this behavior. Identify when you do whatever it is you do. If you only bite your nails when you are sitting in traffic or visiting your in-laws, you know those times are trigger times for you for that behavior. Or maybe a behavior typically comes out late at night when you are very tired.

While you may not be able to wholly avoid the situations - you can't avoid traffic, or your in-laws or the occasional late night - you can try to mitigate those times. Check traffic conditions carefully before hitting the road, address what causes you stress about your inlaw visits and try to get enough rest overall.

Set goals and find diversions

It's pretty much impossible to break a bad habit overnight. Setting small goals and finding distractions first, then moving on to larger goals as you have successes is the way to go. Try to find ways to channel whatever causes you to revert to that habit to different, more productive behaviors.

Set small goals first - just a day or an hour without the undesired behavior. Try to find an appropriate distraction from the habit - something to occupy your hands in an appropriate situation, or other way to focus energy.

Once you have achieved several smaller goals, then set bigger ones: a week or a month without the undesired behavior, perhaps.

Get help if you need it

If you are having trouble breaking a habit, it's okay to ask for help. The bad habit may be signaling a deeper stress or issue that needs to be addressed. You can ask a friend to talk out the issues with you, or even seek out a licensed therapist.

Choose rewards

Breaking a bad habit is hard work. It deserves recognition, and just as the breaking the habit was a highly personal decision and action, so should the reward come from within you. It can be a tangible reward (a really great manicure if you've broken the nail biting habit, for example), or simply planning some time with a loved one to acknowledge your hard work.

No matter the habit you need to break, how you do it or how long it takes, take it for what it is: a real achievement.

Tell us: How did you break your bad habit? Comment below!

Check out the SheKnows message boards to check out other moms confessing their bad habits.

Read more on breaking bad habits:

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