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Tips on helping a loved one break a bad habit

The start of a new year is the best time for cutting loose habits that just aren’t doing us any good.

Friend helping with bad habit

If you have a friend who’s attempting to quit a nasty habit, there are some things you can do to help her establish a healthier and happier life.

We all have bad habits we’d like to break, and the journey is always easier with the help of others. So if your friend had the courage to tell you of the new challenge she’s made for herself, here are some things you can do to help her on her way.

Celebrate her successes

Most people who are trying to break a bad habit are nervous they won’t succeed, and that can make them afraid to toot their own horns. But if they don’t celebrate their hard work, they’ll forget about how much they’ve achieved and could slip back into old habits. When you notice a friend who, for example, is trying to change her diet have a bowl of fruit for dessert rather than a piece of cake, congratulate her. Make it clear how excited you are about how well she’s doing, and show her that her hard work is not going unnoticed.

Check in innocuously

Talking about our successes and challenges can make investing in change a lot easier and more rewarding, but we don’t want to bring things up out of the blue or make people uncomfortable. So if your friend hasn’t talked about how she’s doing, ask about it in a friendly way. For instance, if your friend is trying to stop biting her nails, holding up her hand in front of a group of people will only embarrass her, so wait until the two of you are alone, and gently ask how cutting back on her nail biting is going. This will put the ball in her court in terms of how much she wants to share.

Offer distractions

Breaking a bad habit is tough because trying to not do or think about something can make you focus on that thing constantly. As a friend, help out by offering a distraction. For instance, if your friend at work is trying to give up junk food, and you know she struggles to avoid the food court at lunch, ask if she’d like to have her lunch with you, and then go for a quick walk together. Providing her with a much-needed distraction can be very helpful.

Show you’re a safe space

The biggest challenge in trying to break a bad habit in an open and honest way is feeling you’re being judged for your failures. That’s why establishing yourself as a safe space for your loved one is so important. By assuring her it’s OK to make mistakes and reassuring her of your pride in what she has accomplished, you can ensure she feels comfortable coming to you no matter how she’s doing. So the next time your shopaholic friend caves and buys her niece a toy even though she knows she shouldn’t have, don’t meet her with a disapproving stare. Instead, thank her for being so open with you, and ask how she’s feeling about the decision. By asking questions in a non-judgmental way that help her get to the root of the bad habit, you can make a big difference in her journey.

More tips on bad habits

Tips for breaking bad habits
Late-night eating: How bad is it?
Weeding out negative influences

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