Mental Health

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Each one of us has a bad habit.

It could be spending too much money, watching too much TV, drinking too much coffee, eating too much junk food, swearing, etc.

Although we understand that these habits are called “bad” for a reason, we can’t help but do it anyway.

This article will teach you how to overcome your bad habits using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Ready? Let’s get started!

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBT?

In a nutshell, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy proposes that dysfunctional thinking, which in turns influences a person’s emotions and behavior, is at the root of all psychological problems.

When individuals change their thinking into a more realistic and positive way, they experience a decrease in negative emotions and maladaptive behavior.

For example, if you fail a test, you might have an “automatic thought”, an idea that seems to pop up in your mind: “I’m stupid, I can’t do anything right.” This thought leads to a particular reaction – feeling sad (emotion) and retreating or giving up (behavior).

CBT help you become aware of your dysfunctional thinking by examining the validity of your thoughts. In the example above, you’ll conclude that you’re overgeneralizing and that, in fact, you still do many things well.

Looking at your experience from a new perspective can help you think more positively.

Bad Habits

Bad habits can disrupt our lives and make us lose any sense of control over ourselves.

Some bad habits can hold you from reaching your goals, waste your time and energy and even money, and jeopardize your physical and mental health.

CBT can help you break these bad habits and regain control over yourself and your life.

Below are some common bad habits and how to use CBT techniques to break them:

#1. Stress Eating

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Credit: Pexels

Stress is a part of our daily life.

Most common ways to help you de-stress include exercising, journaling, meditating, doing something you love like gardening, baking, painting, etc.

Some people fall into a bad habit to relieve their stress by eating, often unhealthy food. This is called “stress eating”, which refers to the compulsive desire to eat large amounts of unhealthy food (think of chocolate and junk food) whenever an individual feels anxious or stressed.

However, the relief is momentary and almost always leaves the individual feeling guilty or hating themselves in the aftermath.

CBT can help you break this habit by changing your response to triggers.

CBT and Stress Eating


This one of the most common CBT technique in treating “stress eating”:

* Identify what triggers your stress eating.

* Avoid these triggers at all cost.

* Keep a food journal where you keep track of your diet and record everything you eat and what triggered it.

* Regularly read this journal and identify your patterns of problematic eating and figure out how to overcome them.

For example, if you tend to stress eat when you are bored, keep yourself busy by finding a new interest (painting, writing, exercising, etc).

If you stress eat after a long day at work, find other ways to decompress (drink some tea, do yoga, take a walk, etc).

If you stress eat when you’re feeling down, look for better outlets to deal with your sadness (talk to a friend, spend time with your pet, journal how you feel, cry it out, etc).

#2. Watching Too Much TV

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Credit: Pexels

Watching TV might seem relaxing and enjoyable activity, but when it becomes an addiction, it can turn into an incredible waste of your time.

It’s okay to decompress after a long day and watch a few episodes of your favorite show, but if you find yourself mindlessly channel surfing and spending the day on your couch, then you might have a bad habit.

In one study, watching TV three hours a day has been proven to double their risk of premature death compared to those who watch less, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

If you’re struggling to give up your bad habit of watching too much TV, CBT can help you quit that habit.

CBT and Watching Too Much TV

* Set a reasonable amount of time for TV and stick to it.

* Schedule activities for yourself to do instead of watching TV.

* With time, reduce your time in front of the TV and do more and more of the other healthy activities.

* Every time you complete any of the other activities, reward yourself with something other than watching TV. This will help you associate the positive feelings you get from your rewards with not watching TV.

#3. Procrastinating

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Cresit: Unsplash

Everyone struggled with procrastination at some point in their life, leaving things at the very last minute.

Even though people who procrastinate are trying to distract themselves, deep down, they’re feeling bad and guilty.

When procrastination becomes a habit, it negatively affects your performance and productivity, and increases your stress levels and sense of guilt over time.

Procrastination is a self-defeating behavior that might give you short-term benefits, but at a pricier long-term cost.

So why do so many of us procrastinate?

Some people procrastinate is because they wrongly believe it to be a form of “self-care”. Others do it because of a deep-seated fear of failing to do the task that we’re supposed to do.

CBT and Procrastination

Because there are different reasons why people procrastinate, there are also different ways to help you stop procrastinating. These ways include the following:

Practice positive self-talk – Acknowledge that the task is hard, but tell yourself that you still can do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t need to worry whether you’re going to finish it on time, just begin.

Develop your skills – If you think you won’t be able to do it, try working on your skills. This will boost your self-confidence and motivate you to get things done.

#4. Choosing Bad Partners/Relationships

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Credit: Pexels

A bad relationship is the kind of relationship where you don’t feel heard or valued and respected. You end up feeling heartbroken and blaming yourself for being so stupid.

Author Stephen Chbosky once wrote, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Oftentimes choosing the wrong partner stems from your self-defeating ways and deep-held negative beliefs.

CBT can help you change your negative beliefs by building self-esteem and developing a more positive relationship with yourself first through journaling, positive self-talk, and mindfulness training.

CBT and Choosing Bad Partners/Relationships

* Write down at least five things you love about yourself whether – personality traits or physical features.

* Start using positive affirmations especially when you’re feeling down, such as “I’m strong, I can get through this,” or, “I’m worthy, I love myself.”

* Start practicing self-care by spending some time with yourself doing things you enjoy. Learn to enjoy your own company.

* Meditate while recalling your day. Try to identify the emotions you felt and evaluate how reasonable or justified they are.

* If you make a mistake or embarrass yourself, forgive yourself.

By practicing self-love, you’ll realize that you deserve love and you’ll only attract healthy, loving relationships. You won’t settle for less.


Habits like watching too much TV, stress eating, procrastination and choosing bad relationships might not seem like the most pressing of psychological problems, but their effect on your life can be significant.

This is why you need to address these bad habits and work on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Your turn…
We love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

See a typo or inaccuracy? Please contact us so we can fix it!

Wondering what to read next?

Like This Post? Please Consider Sharing It On Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

How to Break Your Bad Habits Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?


  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: The 21 Day CBT Workbook for Overcoming Fear, Anxiety And Depression, © 2019 by Jacob Greene. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *