How to Break a Habit

In his new book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that just by recognizing them, you can change your habits.

Personally, I have a nightly habit of a glass (or two) of wine. At first I was like, it’s cool, it’s European! But I’ve realized that as soon as Toby goes to bed — ding, that’s my cue — I immediately expect that crisp sip of wine. Duhigg shows how to snap out of your routine (and this week, I’ve just had water).

Do you have a habit you want to break? Doesn’t everyone?

(Via Swissmiss)

  1. You recognize the problem and deal with each obstacle head on as they come without avoiding any.

    Plus, if you’ve been looking to break any kind of habit, these steps are surely trustworthy and will point you in the right direction when learning how to break a habit.

    And if you’d like to dig even a little deeper and learn more habit busting strategies for life, have a quick peek at this:

  2. Hello,

    Excellent article, thanks for share this great post with us, I love this kind of topics are really interesting, health is really important, we have to be careful to obtain a healthy life and this way enjoy everything everyday with our family or people around.


  3. Anonymous says...

    I agree with the lady who remarked on the “European” topic.

    Europe is more than just Italy, France, Spain and the other 2-3 countries that most Americans would visit on a 12 day tour.

    Ever heard of Rumania? Liechtenstein? Latvia? Austria?

    I am Norwegian and I think in my whole childhood I maybe saw my parents drinking wine five times. Beer? Every Saturday! My French husband grew up with a bottle of red sitting on the kitchen table for most meals. He had his first glass when he was fourteen. We are both European.

    How come all people I know are aware of the fact, that the USA consists of more places besides for NYC, California and Florida, but so many Americans are pretty ignorant about other continents? Is it your schooling? Your media?

    Puzzled: Svenja

  4. Dude…now I want a cookie! Gah!

  5. I love myself a glass of night after the kid’s bedtime!! but I’ve been trying to break the habit by drinking a cup of tea. The tea helps, and I feel healthier in the process.

    Thanks for a great post.

  6. I love my habbits, they are treats, I dont see why I should deny myself?

  7. Breaking a habit is hard but anyone can do it with principles of behavior analysis. You’ve gotta find those things that compete with a glass of wine (such as reading a few pages of a good book, listening to relaxing music, etc).

    Or, you can always slowly decrease the amount you’re drinking per night until you’re drinking none. Going cold turkey can be hard!

    Good luck!

  8. Ack!

    I bite my nails :S and have stopped a couple times… but always go back.

  9. Anonymous says...

    I had a 2 glasses of wine each night habit for a looong time. I never questioned it or considered it a problem. About a year ago I decided to quit drinking altogether to sort of clean the slate and observe my habits. It turns out that I no longer want to drink at all! I wake up clear-headed, I feel better overall, and I lost at least 5 pounds within the first few months. It’s amazing now for me to see how alcohol oriented our world is. I’m not against anyone drinking, but wow, it is so interesting to be an observer rather than a participant. Whenever we have dinner with friends I make up my own special drink (usually some sort of sparkling lemonade with a sprig of rosemary) and bottle it up in a pretty bottle. It turns out that everyone ends up wanting my special drink instead of the wine! Do what feels right for you, but being aware of our habits is pretty powerful.

  10. Anonymous says...

    Gads! Don’t deprive yourself of a simple glass of wine based on (another!) self-help book!

  11. Lara, I need to break that “looking at the internet before I start writing for the day” too!

  12. I was addicted to diet coke! I didn’t realize that it was making me sick, the aspertame was giving me headaches! I stopped drinking all soda, and feel great- even lost weight (wasn’t trying to). It was hard at first- but I am SO glad I did!


  13. such a great book, and i love this clip with the author – time to analyze some of my own habits

  14. dc says...

    My nephew read this book and quit smoking about a month ago! Must be a good book, I’ll have to borrow it to try and quit my dessert habit!

  15. I need to break the bad habit of wandering around the kitchen when I’m bored… this could help! Thanks for sharing!

  16. This is so awesome! So funny, I broke the nightly glass of wine habit only three weeks ago. It’s just too easy for one glass to turn into two, and wine gets expensive! And I’m pretty little- two glasses of wine =tipsy for me.

    I still sometimes slip up, but I buy so much less wine now and I sleep better, too.

    Now I need to change my “looking at the internet before I start writing for the day” habit. I hope the same technique works!!!

  17. Thank you for this post! I feel less alone.

    I too reach for the bottle of wine for a glass (or two) once my twins are finally in bed.
    It feels like a reward, something that soothes me and helps me get rid of stress after a long day of work
    as a mom and a writer in NYC.
    However I decided last week to have wine (or beer) only on the weekends. And it feels very good to drink water weeknights (although I am French).

    Now if only the guards at Rockefeller Park could not pay attention to our friends and my husband and me sharing Rose on the grass on weekends, that would be more pleasurable for all of us.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. I too have the habit of a drink once my son is in bed. I know I feel much better in the morning when I skip it. I realize it’s a habit that needs to be broken :(

  20. What’s hard about breaking the wine habit for me is that I look forward to it so much. During my day, I will picture the moment when I’m finally alone, relaxing and unwinding. I think it might be a bit hard if I didn’t have that to look forward to!

  21. My 4pm cup of tea! I could miss it (because I needed it not to be a can’t do with out habit) but I prefer not to miss it.

  22. i have that exact habit! will be watching this video when i get home –thanks for sharing :) xx

  23. Anonymous says...

    This is really interesting! Thanks for posting.

  24. I love this! Usually at about 3:30 I leave my desk (I work from home) and go to the kitchen. That’s my tired time of day. It’s like clockwork and I snack on whatever’s around..usually olives but sometimes something more dangerous, like banana bread! ahh. I gotta stop! I think I will try a brisk walk to perk me back up.

  25. I admire people who nip things in the bud before they’re actually a problem…good-job! …Honestly…Sugar is my bad habit/addiction, and I’ve just GOT to break it!

  26. A couple of people here have mentioned some interesting things about “European” habits (and the fact that there is so much variation among Europeans and European countries). I spend a lot of time in Italy as my partner is Italian, and one thing I’ve noticed, at least around his friends, is that the wine is only a complement to a meal (and I believe there is research showing that the benefit of red wine may be in part its ability to break down red meat in the stomach). They don’t seem to pour wine and sip as they’re cooking, or just sitting around the house unwinding, etc. My boyfriend in fact and his family don’t drink much at all, i.e. the wine comes out at Christmas and Easter dinner, or when there are guests. His dad, who was a doctor in the south of Italy for more than 50 years, never drank. I used to pour a glass of wine a few nights a week after I got home from work and was on the Internet. I enjoyed the ritual, but I also broke the habit because I was concerned that it wasn’t a very healthy way to live.

  27. great post, the description of you getting the wine made me laugh…particularly because it’s the description of me as well, except the fact that i don’t have a baby to put to sleep and that a glass or two are two or three in my case. it’s not that i am overly worried, i like to enjoy after a day at work (that’s my excuse), it’s just that somehow i feel empty if i skip that comforting routine and that one glass of wine seems like nothing to me. have a good day!

  28. esther says...

    I´d rather be an alcoholic than reading a self help book.

  29. Este es uno de los gran tema para los lectores que también es agradable para comentar también. Gracias por compartir esto con nosotros. Felices compras … :)

  30. Anonymous says...

    I’m “european” and lately I’ve been thinking that maybe the late night dinner + wine combo is not such a good option. But then again, there is nothing more fun and relaxing than a nice (delicious) dinner and wine with your husband or friends after a long and exhausting day. So I’m not so sure I want to break this habit. I guess acknowledgment is good enough for me, for now.


  31. I’m so quitting being lazy. It’s a bad habit of mine. I’m gonna be productive from now on.

  32. Mine would be COFFEE!!! I come to expect it right when I wake up. That is fine, I am totally okay with a morning coffee…but I plan my day around fetching a perfect cappuccino from the local coffee bar in the afternoon. I need to get over it. It’s expensive, my body could use more water and less caffeine for sure.

  33. Anonymous says...

    Oh, that white wine… I think I might mix it with perrier and make it into a (watered down) spritzer. great post.

  34. Anonymous says...

    Have that glass, girl.

  35. Anonymous says...

    Why do you think so many Europeans age well?

  36. brilliant.
    i need to quit drinking soda. seriously. i hate being addicted to caffeine. having a headache because i haven’t consumed it for the day is so crappy!

  37. I’m having my daily “it’s after 5!” glass of wine as I type this… I have a hard time breaking habits that were created as a reward. But there are plenty of other things I definitely need to rid of, like buying something I don’t need just because it’s “on sale.”

  38. Rosa says...

    Dear Jo,

    I love your blog, it is one of my favorite spots on the internet. There is one thing that I have read a few times, that annoys me a little. May I tell you what it is?

    You sometimes refer to something as “european”. Here it is the habit of drinking wine in the evenings.

    The only things that Europeans really have in common is the continent they live on. Sure, there are similarities in the culture of the scandinavian countries and people in Belgium and the Netherlands probably eat similar things for breakfast.

    And drinking wine in the evening is for sure common in Mediterranean countries.

    But it is NOT a “european” thing. There is not such a thing as a typical european culture.

    I know I sound like a boring teacher (or even worse: a mean wiseacre. But for me as a Portuguese married to a Norwegian living in Germany it really annoys me when Americans refer to any random thing that they know about France, England or Sweden as “european”.

    Europe consists of 47 countries. The difference in lifestyle between these countries is huge. Luckily!

    I know it makes things easier to assume that all of Europe is one large cultural area. But it is not!

  39. Really! I can’t understand why you think “nightly habit of a glass (or two) of wine” is “European”.
    I’m european, I’ve always lived in Europe and I don’t know anyone that does that!

    Don’t get me wrong…. it’s just that americans have very romantic ideas of things we don’t do at all!

  40. Macey, do you recall the title of the article you mentioned or have a link?


  41. My sweet tooth makes me eat something sweet after every meal.. Bad Habit…
    Thanks for sharing this video..

  42. my older brother bought this book for my younger sister as a high school graduation present. she kinda groaned at it, so i’m thinking about “borrowing” it from her when we’re all together at christmas! great video!

  43. Love this! My escape is to watch reality tv and drink a cocktail or two… the reward is absolutely the escape. But I find it in a good book too… I still need to create some other ways to escape though.

  44. Wine is my habit too, and I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to change it. The funny thing is, it’s more in your head than anywhere else. The first day is the hardest, then afterward you realize you sleep better without a couple of glasses of wine sloshing around.

  45. I’ve got toooo many habits that I want to break.
    Even if I know the cues, the routines, and the rewards, and everything else … I really can’t get myself to break the habits.
    One, for example, surfing the internet all day without getting anything productive done.
    I’m supposed to be doing a job search instead, or studying GMAT, or doing anything but aimless internet surfing and wasting time.
    But it’s just so much easier to do that, I can’t help myself :D

  46. great to read this – i also am guilty of the nightly wine off- but I’ve been trying to switch to tea. It’s surprising how quickly the desire changes!

    xo em

    p.s but the wine is great, right?

  47. i love this.
    i can’t get over the fact that one cookie a day (or lack of) he lost 12 pounds, that’s amazing! i’m trying really hard to not eat past every day and i would like to stop looking at Facebook (so unfulfilling.)
    i love starting new habits too…. this month has been the elliptical :)

  48. i have the wine habit too, although i’ve started to break it. hope i can keep it up and make the wine more occasional. thanks for sharing.

  49. I just broke my nightly glass (or 2) of wine habit about 3 months ago! I have a tea instead & wake up feeling much more refreshed.

  50. Anonymous says...

    When someone tells me a story I always comment on something similar that happened to me, but I think it might sound as if I am trying to compete or distract the attention from their story.
    I really try to be talkative or empathetic but I think I create a different feeling, so I am aware of that now and I stop myself when I am about to do it. Just being aware helps!

  51. I have a few habits I’d like to break, but smoking tops the list…..

  52. I’m a nail biter through and through! Will definitely watch this tonight.

  53. I have the terrible and very annoying habit of interrupting people. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I’m working on it, though :)

  54. Bad habit: eating late at night! I just get the munchies after I put my kids in bed & want comfort food. I don’t drink alcohol, but food, definitely is my wine.

  55. I had a pretty bad habit of biting my nail skin but after I got braces, that habit got kicked in the butt!

  56. i like the idea behind this video….however, my bad habit is having a cluttered room. i’m not sure what my “reward” is for that.

  57. Kelly R says...

    I say “dude” a lot. Way more than a 30 year old woman should. The other night, the guy I’m currently dating asked me to stop calling him dude. I was sad at first, but now I think it might be a good idea to try to break the habit.

  58. Mine is chocolate. I was the same way as many people are with wine. The kids would be tucked in, I would immediately go to the fridge to break off a piece. I had to stop keeping it in the fridge.

  59. This is great. I need to break the habit of daily afternoon goldfish snacking at work.

  60. Darling! I am SO working on quitting my nightly ‘glass-or-two’ of wine. For those who always say ‘there’s nothing wrong with one glass of wine,’ I have this little theory: ‘it’s never JUST ONE glass of wine.’ I started for just not buying it…and try to leave it for the weekends. The moment you don’t have it for two nights, you need is much less!


  61. Macey says...

    Harper’s Bazaar ran a great article sometime within the past 2 years about non-problematic dependent drinkers, essentially meaning they had gotten too used to the habit of needing a glass of wine, say as they’re cooking dinner, and had come to need it every night. It was written by a mother who chronicled her efforts in trying to break the habit of having two (or three!) glasses of wine every evening. You should check it out!

  62. Lauren says...

    What a cute and inspiring little video! I think my worst habit is negative thinking…now I’m trying to figure out what “reward” I get from it…

  63. dessert! er, every night. dessert it great and all, but everything in moderation. thanks for the tip. :)

  64. haha, maybe it’s a fine habit…but it’s like my mouth literally salivates like pavlov’s dogs :)

  65. Laurencapri says...

    I have the wine habit too. I stopped for a few weeks to make sure I could and now I’m back to my very European habit!

  66. I had a bad habit of plopping my butt on the couch after coming home from work (sitting on my butt) so I stopped. I started walking, then I tried Youtube yoga videos. 2 weeks later, I have a new habit instead… and I feel great instead, too! Thanks, Joanna!