We create our habits for a reason, whether good or bad. Most bad habits are born from the need for a coping strategy, either due to an ongoing feeling like shyness or stress or they can start when we use them to help cope with a traumatic event experienced at some point in our life.
The problem with using alcohol, drugs, or food as a means of coping with the ups and downs of life is that it becomes a habit, and if you have ever tried to give up your bad habit you will know how difficult this can be.
Your brain loves a habit, it helps you to get through the day without constantly having to make decisions. It also allows you to concentrate on the big things in your life without having to constantly make little choices throughout the day.
When the brain identifies a habit it will encourage you to continue to use this as your coping mechanism even when you want to stop or when the need to cope with a traumatic event has gone. From the minute you wake up in the morning your unconscious mind is making choices of which you are not even aware. We shower, brush our teeth and eat the same breakfast we eat every day, without even thinking about it.
Your unconscious mind cannot make a distinction between a good and bad habit, it does not understand that alcohol or sugar or drugs are bad for your health, it only focuses on repetition. If you repeat something over and over again your unconscious mind will recognise this as something you do every day and therefore it will encode it and just like running a software programme it starts to play without you being aware it is happening.
Giving up a bad habit is not just a matter of stopping. If you want to stay stopped you first must identify, why you started using it in the first place and then decide what good habit you will replace it with that will satisfy the same need.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit”
Take the time to analyse all the reasons and all the situations that you act out the old habit you want to replace. Maybe it is boredom, stress, tiredness, socialising, to be part of the crowd. You will have your own reason. Do you have a set time of day? Perhaps you have got into the habit of taking a glass of wine after work, which extends into the bottle? The 6 pack of crisps watching TV in the evening? Using Cocaine when with your friends?
Make a list of all the times and all the reasons you act out your habit. Be honest with yourself, if not, it is only yourself you are deceiving.
Then make another list of what you will do instead. What will you do instead of watching TV and eating crisps? What will you do after work instead of drinking wine? Can you find new friends that don’t use drugs?
Giving up a bad habit is never enough, your unconscious mind has all the time in the world to chip away at your willpower, to weaken your resolve. To stop that from happening you need to be too busy enjoying your life doing other things. Pack your life with healthy pursuits and hobbies. Leave no space for doubts to enter.
Giving up your bad habit is the easy part; the hard part is dealing with your life now your crutch has gone. If you are serious about giving up then take the time to map out the new life you will live.
It takes years to get to the stage where you have had enough of your bad habit and want to ditch it for good. You arrived at this point because you repeated the habit over and over again until it became ingrained in your neural pathways. Now you need to repeat your new habit over and over and over again so that it can become ingrained and becomes your new way of being and doing in the world. When you stop the old habits they will over time wither and die, and when you repeat the new habit it will over time become your new automatic response to the stresses and strains of everyday life.