Changing bad habits is what changes lives.*
Whether it’s smoking, excessive alcohol, or late-night internet surfing, bad habits can be very difficult to break. Even though we know we’re engaging in behavior that isn’t good for us, the habit by definition is something that has become ingrained in our daily ritual; a go-to behavior, so to speak.
And there’s another reason why we cling to bad habits: We grow accustomed to certain positive aspects that we associate with them. Ask any successful ex-smoker what she or he misses most about smoking and they’ll likely say, “Those few minutes of quiet time that came with each cigarette. I’d step outside my home or office building and nobody would bother me.” They probably won’t say, “I miss the coughing in the morning, or the stains on my fingers.”
Therefore, in order to break a bad habit, we must find new ways to achieve those positive aspects. For example, if your bad habit is smoking and you know you’ll miss the quiet time associated with it, find new ways to gain quiet time. It could be as easy as five to ten minutes of deep breathing exercises at your desk, taking a walk at lunchtime, or signing up for a yoga class after work. If you tend to unwind with alcohol, substitute it with a relaxing walk, bike ride, or luxurious bath. Set small goals for yourself, such as three days without smoking, etc. and determine a reward for sticking to them.
A few other things are important when breaking a bad habit: avoiding triggers (places, people, and activities that you associate with the bad habit), and seeking support from friends and family to help keep you strong in your efforts. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a relapse—they happen. But do get yourself right back on track, and if you feel as though the habit is “bigger than you are,” don’t hesitate in seeking professional counseling.
*From the book, A Life of My Own by Karen Casey.