Overcoming bad habits: breaking the chain that binds you... Image courtesy of Qoncept Shutterstock.com
The first consideration when contemplating the breaking of a habit is whether it been deemed worthy of cessation by yourself or someone else. Closely related to this is thinking about whether the habit is really problematic in the first place. If it is affecting your ability to function effectively in more than one environment, such as work and home, than it worthwhile investment to try to uproot it. Related to this is the need to imagine or conceptualise your life without the presence of the habit. Are the positive changes emanating from breaking the habit greater than the pay-offs from keeping it? Yes? Then give it all you got!
You also need to consider the etiology of the habit. Etiology is a term used in medicine meaning the cause and triggers of a disease. Habits also have roots, and things that cause them to worsen. reason it is important to think about what purpose the habit fulfils for you is to be aware of triggers so you can avoid, limit or manage them. Secondly, you need to replace whatever the pay-off the habit gave you. Things are only maintained if they have a pay-off, a positive outcome in our minds that means it is worthwhile to continue. For example, if you use smoking to deal with stress, the pay-off of perceived anxiety mitigation can only be dealt with by working on other ways to decrease anxiety.
Nature abhors a vacuum, but the good news is, find another way to effect the feeling or mental change as the habit evokes, and you're well on your way to conquering it.
Which brings to the fore another major point to consider - are you ready to quit, to engage in the hard work that you may need to undertake to break the chains of your habit.
However, there is more good news. If you change habits slowly, and don't change more than one habit at a time, the task will seem not only do-able but rewarding, as you change automatic actions to conscious choices and feel the reverberating positive changes that take place. You feel like a success. You are giving yourself confidence. You can do it.
Be gentle with yourself if you slip back into old ways of operating. Remind yourself this is completely normal. In fact, it is part of the process so expect it. The point you've got to keep returning to is that you have already calculated that the pros of breaking the habit outweigh the pros of keeping it.
Also, keep in mind that any habit is a figurative 'monkey on our back'. When something controls us, we feel controlled, unable to effect decisions consciously. From personal experience that is a very uncomfortable feeling in itself.
When the relinquishing of habits is consciously seen as a person and worthwhile task, we can replace them in ways we can turn what is admittedly a challenging task into a doable task. This is by making sure we are replacing the task with something that gives us the same pay-offs and being extremely gentle and gradual in our approach.
Before you know it, you will be in control and life will get better as conscious choices replace automatic responses that no longer serve us.