This month we instead of making New Year's resolutions in the karate school, we are talking about good and bad habits. How long does it take to break a bad habit and develop a new one? Much of the time, bad habits are hard to break simply because they begin as enjoyable activities, which we want to repeat. This is because, when we do pleasurable things, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that activates the brain's reward center. This encourages us to do those things again, and the activity becomes a habit. Essentially, we do what we reinforce whether good or bad.

You can break bad habits and, in some cases, replace them with positive behaviors. Unfortunately this takes time; research shows that, on average, you'll need to engage in an alternative behavior or thought pattern consistently for an average of 66 days for it to become a habit. (This can vary from 18 to 254 days, depending on the behavior and the person.)

This can seem overwhelming. But stop and think about the last time you kicked a bad habit for good. It felt great, didn't it? Three steps that can help are as follows:

Step No.1: Make It Conscious

The first step is to figure out when -- and why -- you bite your nails, crack your knuckles, or engage in any other bad habit.

Step No. 2: Put It in Writing So It Really Sinks In

Keep a log for at least a week and then look at the data. What are your usual triggers are. "Do you do it when you are anxious or bored?"

Step No. 3: Bait and Switch

Once you realize when and why you are biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, or engaging in any other bad habit, the next logical step is to find a not-quite-as-annoying temporary or permanent replacement for it.

Many of the kids at the dojo are working on simple things like cleaning their rooms, brushing their hair or teeth, or even working on not throwing fits! What do you want to work on?