How often have we not struggled with breaking habits?
A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. (Wikipedia)
When an action is done subconsciously, it means it’s been etched in our being and part of who we are. But what if it’s a habit that slowly destroys us? There are habits that make us unproductive and keep us from reaching our goals.
What if we want to eliminate a habit from our lives? How do we do it if it’s already a part of who we are?
Breaking habits may not be easy. It cannot happen overnight.
But it is not impossible.
According to Steve Flowers, a psychotherapist at the Enloe Medical Center in Chico, California,
“Mindfulness is a very powerful antidote to that habit pattern because by nature, mindful awareness is compassionate and accepting. When you start to look at yourself from the point of view of awareness rather than criticism, it allows you to see habits of mind you’ve come to identify with. It can help free you from the straitjacket of a false self.”
It is then our mindfulness, our awareness, our deliberate decision to change that will make breaking habits possible.
The best way to get rid of an old habit is to replace it with a new one. When you remove a habit from your life, you will feel empty and not knowing what to do might only pull you back to the old habit.
Find a new one that will replace the old one.
If you want to quit smoking, you will always have the urge to smoke. Replace it with exercise; biking, swimming or going to the gym. Getting your mind off from your old habit is a good way to turn your back from it. But occupying yourself with something better is even more effective.
Alan Cohen tells this story of a lady who came to him for help to break a habit. She had been smoking pot nearly everyday for 6 years. She had tried everything to quit, but kept failing. Much to her shock, Alan suggested that she quit trying to break the habit! He went on to say:
“Quit fighting it. Your struggle against smoking is keeping it strong in your mind. Rather than battling what you don’t want, cultivate what you want. Meditate, pray, read uplifting books, keep supportive company, walk in nature, listen to joyful music – all the things that make you happy…..If the habit is not in your best interests, it will fall away in the presence of the light you are generating.”
Six months later, the lady had indeed broken the habit!
Every day, when you get the urge to fall into your old habits, be mindful and decide not to go there. You may take a fall every now and then, and eventually get discouraged. But never lose heart and let your old habit stop you from living a better life.
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Image of choice between and apple and a doughnut via Shutterstock
the bespectacled mother
Breaking the habit is exactly what I needed to hear today. I have been falling short nearly everyday with one thing. It is about the dietary requirements and I am simply unable to break away from my habit of turning to that one thing. Let me read this post once again.
That’s a great advice- Replace your 1 habit with the other. Sounds workable. Emailing this to a friend. Thanks for this Corinne.
One of the things that always helps me when I’m building a new habit is consistency. Repeating something new every day is very important! You’re spot on, Corinne, it’s never easy to break out of an old one.
Vinay Leo R.
I agree. Breaking habits can be hard. I had the habit of being on the computer for 4 or 5 hours at a stretch, be it at work or after returning home. I then started reading books. That helped break that habit at home. At office, I made the habit of washing my face every two hours. That mindfulness really helps. 🙂 Wonderful and inspiring musing, Cory.
Shilpa Garg (@shilpaagarg)
Ah! Breaking habits is truly hard. I have been trying to cut down on sugar. Am able to have no sugar in my tea/coffee but some desserts I just cant resist. But yes, being mindful and being conscious certainly helps. Thanks for this dose of inspiration. Needed to read this today!
I love Cohen’s advice about taking up good things that make the bad things fall away. For me, it’s beginning my day with a quiet time when I read the Bible and consider positive truths instead of focusing on worries.
Healthwealthbridge by Dr.Amrita Basu
Excellent advice about breaking bad habits.Whenever I have a night duty anxiety attacks make me irritable.I try to walk and exercise more to feel happier .An occasional chocolate helps too!
Getting hold of a bad habit is important in the first place. And replacing it with a new good habit is the best solution
Lovely article.. I love the idea of replacing the habit with a good one rather trying to stop doing it.Sharing it in my social media.