Firstly, and arguably the most important factor, is motivation. Do YOU want to break this habit or does somebody else. Psychologists have found that changing behaviours is more successful when the motivation to do so is intrinsic (or internal) rather than coming from somewhere external (like family or partners). The bottom line is – You have to want to change your bahaviour!
Now that you want to change for you, the next step is self-awareness. When do you most frequently perform this action? What feelings were you experiencing when you initiated the behaviour? Where were you? Who were you with? Contextual cues are extremely important when dealing with habits. This is why relapse is so common for drug addicts after leaving detox clinics. They return to the places and people that they associate with their old habits and slip back into their old life.
Once we have established our motivational and contextual cues, we can look for ways to change how we think about them and change our behaviour accordingly. Maybe sitting in front of the TV, which was once associated with snack food, is now a space to fold the washing. Replacing negative behaviours with more positive ones can allow us to replace the reinforcement we received from the old behaviour (which is why we did it in the first place) with a more positive or functional one. For example, replacing a sugar high with endorphins from an exercise high. Simple, cognitive-behavioural techniques can be very effective at dealing with niggly, annoying or even harmful habits.
Another effective method for overcoming adversive behaviour is hypnosis. Hypnosis involves the patient entering a state of hypersuggestability where the therapist uses various techniques individualized for the patient. Habits which have been effectively treated by hypnosis include smoking, bulimia and binge eating and phobias.
Hypnosis can be effective in breaking habits but success will always boil down to one thing…. do you want to change?