Bad habits. We've all had them, whether it be eating junk food, smoking, gossiping, being too hard on ourselves, or criticizing others. A habit is something we do so repeatedly that it almost seems to become a part of us, to the point where the action is difficult to control. In our society, we've convinced ourselves that anything negative should be able to be waved away with a magic wand. The simple truth however, is that change of the lasting kind usually takes time, effort, and commitment. So how to we even go about the daunting task of changing something that's so ingrained in our behaviour, attitudes and lifestyle? We begin by moving the negative action from our subconscious back into our daily awareness, so that we again have a choice about it.
Tips for Breaking a Bad Habit
1. What are you getting out of it?
The fact that we know something's bad for us yet we continue doing it means that somewhere, there's a payoff for us. Figure out how your habit makes you feel when you engage in it. For instance, say you have a bad habit of criticizing the people around you. You might notice you feel a sense of superiority, control, or power when you do this, which would point to the fact that deep down you feel the opposite. Whenever we use external means to make ourselves feel "better", the key to what we're trying to achieve is usually an internal need that's not being filled.
2. What are you giving up for it?
There's always a trade-off with a bad habit, that's how we know it's bad. Human beings can be quite good at living in denial, pushing things out of our minds and pretending they don't exist. However, this doesn't mean that you aren't being affected by your bad habit. What are you losing because of it? It could be your health, your self-respect, or the respect of others. Let's take the example of criticizing others. You're causing pain to others - most likely a pain you've been quite familiar with in your own life. And even though you feel a sense of power and control in the moment, your actions are most likely also causing you deep-seeded guilt and repressed self-loathing, which can lead to a sense of alienation and even illness. Is the trade-off worth the pay-off? It never usually is.
3. Realize you have the power.
Once you bring your bad habit back into your consciousness, and make note of when you're doing it and how it makes you feel, it's time to start making a choice not to do it anymore. This isn't going to be easy, and you may relapse - in fact it's most likely that you will. This is part of the process! Making mistakes is completely human, and it's ok, you just have to keep trying, and bit by bit, step by step, it will become easier. You'll be re-conditioning yourself out of the bad habit, just as you conditioned yourself into it in the first place. Remember this is not an overnight remedy, it will take time and consistent forgiveness for yourself as you go along.
4. Substituting positive behaviours.
By replacing our negative behaviours, we reinforce the change. For someone who criticizes others, watch what happens as you begin to change your attitude into one of encouragement and support - that same encouragement and support will come back to you, you'll feel better about yourself for helping others instead of keeping them down, and you'll realize this is probably what you were missing in the first place.