Five Secrets for Self-Control and How to Change a Bad Habit: Step Four

Drawing of man carrying moving boxes in front of house

Changing Your Environment is the Fourth Secret to Self-Control and Changing Bad Habits

When you develop bad habits, they can be pretty overwhelming at times. These urges can leave you feeling trapped or stuck, making it difficult to find a way to change the habit. Practicing self-control, changing a bad habit, and finding a sense of freedom is not always an easy task, which is why it is so important to learn some healthy steps to take to break the habit. My name is Dr. Jonathan Bricker and in this blog series we are discussing the five steps that will help you to achieve self-control and break free from your bad habits. As we discussed in step one, finding inspiration is a key component to this process. As we will discuss here in step four, one of the best ways to find inspiration is by changing your environment.

Change What You Can, Accept What You Can’t

Cravings and addictions require a lot of work in order to overcome them. You can be willing to make changes that will help you to manage your urges; however, and also understand and accept the fact that there are some things that you cannot change. These urges brought on from addiction or food cravings can be very controlling and make you feel powerless, so you need to find out what things you have the ability to change to help you regain a sense of control in your life.

What Things Can You Change?

The things that you are in control of are the things that you can change. Your surroundings play an important role in your level of success of breaking a bad habit, so changing the environment that you are surrounded by can help you tremendously. The surroundings that you can change include:

  • Places that you go to or visit
  • People that you associate with
  • Activities that you engage in

For example, if you are struggling with alcohol, choose not to go to a bar or into a liquor store; if you are trying to quit smoking cigarettes, choose not to hang out with people who smoke regularly; if you are trying to battle food cravings, choose not to go out to eat with friends at a place that has a tempting menu. The places, people, and activities that surround you can have a big impact on your success.

How to Change Your Environment

As with much advice that gets offered, changing your environment is easier said than done. It is all well and good to understand the importance of doing so, but where do you begin? As we discussed in step two, triggers make addictions and other bad habits increasingly more difficult to resist. Here are a few excellent ways to start actively changing your environment and surroundings to avoid the triggers of your urges.

What are the Best Ways to Change Your Surroundings?

Take stock of your triggers by writing down a list of everything that triggers your urges. By doing so, you can be more mindful of those urges and make changes to your surroundings that will help you avoid those triggers. After taking stock of what your triggers are, try to toss or box away any triggers in your current environment. Clean out your car, go room to room in your house, and either throw away and seal away anything that might trigger you. For example, throw away lighters if that triggers you to smoke. Box up all of your wine glasses and shot glasses and put them in the attic if they trigger you to drink. 

As we discussed in step three, it is important to unhook from your thoughts to gain more control over your mind and to prevent thoughts from becoming triggers. Similarly, unhook yourself from social media triggers by deleting groups, people, or posts that might trigger your urges. Once you remove all physical and digital triggers, an important step to take is to replace those things with new things that inspire you. For example, new collectibles that excite you, new photos of people who inspire and support you, or new foods that motivate you to succeed. Creating an inspiring space will allow you to enjoy that space and focus on the most important aspects of your life, instead of fixating on your old urges that hinder your progress and happiness.

You Don’t Have to do it Alone

There is no greater strength than in opening yourself up to others. If you need help or support, then ask for it! Sometimes the wrong type of support or support from the wrong people is not helpful, but most of the time getting support is a blessing. Changing your environment can be challenging, so having the right people in your corner can ease the struggle. Think about who you trust to support you and be clear about what you need from them. Setting boundaries when it comes to support is a great way to maintain control, even when asking for help.

If you can, try to find a habit mentor, someone who has already changed the habit that you are currently working on yourself. Their story can inspire you and they can advise you on both what worked for them and what didn’t work for them. If you don’t have any supportive people in your life, that’s okay! Try to find a faith-based group, AA group, social media group, or any other type of support group. We all need support sometimes and there is nothing wrong with asking for it.

Learn More about the Secrets of Self-Control

Be sure to check out my blog to learn all of the secrets of self-control and to find other helpful articles related to changing your bad habits and regaining control in your life. My goal is to help you find freedom from anxiety and addiction, and willingness is just the third step to help you get there.