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How to unlearn Bad Habits
We’ve all done it, no one’s exempt. Yes, we’ve all developed habits as a way of life. Many habits are helpful, they positively contribute to regulating our lives but some are bad habits and we can become slaves to these. The first thing we need to do to conquer entrenched habits that aren’t good for us is to recognize them. But that’s the easy part.
Old, deeply ingrained habits are notoriously difficult to kick. Remember all those New Year’s resolutions to shake bad habits and change the way we do things? Same again next year, and the next. We know we need to take control of these weaknesses but where to start?
To overcome unwanted habits, we need to understand the cause and then develop new behaviors that sideline the unwanted behaviors. We must implement strategies that will empower us to take action and reverse the hold that old habits have over us.
But what course of action can we adopt to take control of our bad habits? Decide which habits you have that are destructive and need unlearning. Then we need to form a framework upon which to build new, more beneficial habits. First, we start with understanding the components of the cycle of a habit; the cues (trigger); the response (your action); and the reward (the result).
Starting with the ‘cue’, we have to identify what triggers or initiates the unwanted behavior. The most fundamental cues for habits are cravings. These can certainly influence your behavior. You need to be brutally honest when analyzing your situation. Once you can recognize what triggers the behavior you are already closer to overcoming it. Following through, what is the ‘reward’, you experience by letting the habit occur? Having identified the trigger for a habit and what the reward is, you need to intervene in the logical progression of that process. Disrupt the process of cause and effect.
The best place to start is to analyze the craving which anticipates the reward. Now you can derail the feedback loop of the cause of the habit and the reward it is aiming to achieve. Start with unraveling the craving.
The strategies you put in place will depend on the circumstances. By understanding the real cause and effect cycle, you are better able to interrupt, modify or totally eliminate the process.
Let’s look at some common situations. Someone suffering anxiety may turn to unhelpful behaviors. Anxiety (the cue) may initiate overeating (the action), the person turns to calorie-rich foods or habitual snacking in order to feel better (the reward). For others, their emotional state triggers an urge to over-indulge in alcohol, which is another destructive habit.
So, what more positive strategies can you implement to circumvent the grip a habit has? We can’t always remove the root cause of the behavior – the cravings. For example, there will be some times when a person may feel anxiety and that situation might be out of their control. But their response to it is something they can modify.
So, if you are not able to do something to prevent the cause and return to a sense of wellbeing, we replace the resulting unwanted behavior with something else that will alleviate the feelings of anxiety and restore a sense of comfort.
Rather than reaching for the alcohol or raiding the fridge, we could try something new and interesting instead. Join a gym or a local sports club. Consider volunteering at a shelter for people much worse off than yourself, or a shelter for abandoned pets. Take up drama classes, buy a bicycle, join a conservation group. Go to a prayer meeting.
It is amazing what your new engagement with other people passionate about the same interests as you can do for your mental wellbeing, and sense of comfort.
By adopting these positive strategies, you have interrupted the entrenched bad habit cycle and still reached the reward, which is a better state of comfort and a good sense of wellbeing. The cue may be the same, and the reward is the same but the process of completing the cycle has totally changed, for the better.
We can all apply these analytical processes to understand, unravel and reprogram most of our bad habits to achieve a healthy, satisfying result. Simply take alternative action to turn bad habits into good habits.read more
How to break bad habits
We all have a few bad habits, be it overeating, biting our nails, procrastinating, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, social media dependency, overspending, gossiping, etcetera. And, we all try to get rid of these habits but, most of the time we fail and resort to our old practices. We fall in the endless loop of trying and failing at our resolutions to quit the bad habit. So how to break bad habits?
It is crucial to understand how a bad habit forms, to break a bad habit
All bad habits form because they give you a sense of relief. It can be a physical, mental or social pleasure. For example, let’s take overeating, you tend to overeat when you experience stress/anxiety/depression, and when you eat you feel better. The brain recognizes overeating as a solution to your emotional distress. And, it will prompt you to overeat whenever you are in the same situation again. So, it is essential to break the link that your brain has established. When you can successfully break this bond of bad habit and pleasure, then you can successfully quit it.
How can we break the bond of bad habits and pleasure?
The most successful method of taming a bad habit is to replace it with a new one. When you try to get rid of a bad habit, your brain thinks it’s lacking something. It will give you a stronger urge to bring back whatever you have stopped doing. But, when you substitute, the brain experiences no such thing. That is why substitution has proven to be successful in many cases.
Let’s take overeating as an example; if you decide not to eat anything when you feel stressed, then your brain will keep signaling you to overeat. Each time the urge would be stronger than before and eventually, you would give in to it.
What if you overate fruits or popcorns or something healthy? It won’t deteriorate your health, and the urge to overindulge would subside. You can also choose to do some other activity to substitute. Try going for a bike ride, take a hot shower, take a hike to make yourself feel better.
When you replace the bad habit with a new one, you can successfully quit it and end up with a new good habit.
Identify the triggers
Each bad habit has one or many triggers associated with it. When you identify them, it will get easier for you to get rid of the habit. It does not matter how strong your willpower is but if you surround yourself with something that triggers your bad habit, you will continue doing it. Some of the common triggers are stress, peer pressure, lack of time, boredom, seeking attention.
To identify the triggers, you must assess the following things:
What time of the day was the urge stronger?
Who is the influencer of your bad habit?
What were you feeling at that moment? (anger, hate, anxiety, stress, lonely, neglected)
Some of the common triggers are stress, peer pressure, lack of time, boredom, seeking attention. Whatever your trigger is, once you figure it out, try to stay away from it.
Hold yourself accountable
Most of the time, we don’t tell anyone about our decision to quit a bad habit. Because we feel, “if we fail no one would know.” That is why you must tell a group of people (whom you feel comfortable telling) and announce it to them that you are going to quit it. It will keep you accountable because the feeling of failure is worst when you know there is an audience. It will make people cautious of not triggering anything that promotes your lousy habit. You won’t have to hide your struggle, and you may even inspire someone to quit their harmful habit too.
Visualize your success
It is essential to keep your motivation high when you are trying to quit something. Visualization is a powerful skill, and it can help you to boost your willpower. Whenever you feel like giving in to the temptation of your bad habit, try visualizing your goals. Imagine how good you would look and the clothes you would buy when you lose weight? Imagine how much health you would gain when you quit smoking?
Try speaking these phrases for additional help.
“I will be in great shape a few months from now.”
“I will be able to save a lot of money.”
Try to boost your morale and continue making an effort to improve your well-being.
Take the easy route
When you decide to quit something, it is similar to forming a new habit. So, at the beginning make things easier for yourself. If you take easy and smaller tasks, you will be able to do them without any motivation. Practice smoking nine cigarettes instead of 10. Try to overeat one time healthily. I know you are already thinking “that’s doable” well, that is the goal. When you make doable changes, you are bound to do them for a longer time. That is the key to quitting a bad habit, keep making small changes regularly, and after a few months you’d happily give up your bad habit.
When you accomplish tinier goals, you must reward yourself. The sense of accomplishment helps you to stay motivated, pushes you to keep making the efforts. Set smaller goals such as smoking nine cigarettes instead of 10 for a week. And reward yourself when you accomplish the goal. Get a manicure if you didn’t bite your nails for a week as it will motivate you not to nibble your nails.
Everything takes time be it forming a good habit or breaking a bad one. When you start small and keep making an effort to quit something, you might not see significant results. But, if you are patient enough the minor changes will add up to a noticeable difference. Be patient, when you begin the journey, to transform your habits from bad to good. Don’t get too impatient for the results; it will happen when you keep making an effort. It always does!
Each one of us is different, and each habit has a different trigger. Try to customize the methods mentioned above to serve you in the best way. I hope the article helps you to successfully replace your bad habits with some great ones.read more