5 Tips to Break Any Bad Habit
Many of you will be trying to stop a bad habit in 2018. But how do you actually do it? Often using willpower alone to quit a bad habit or addiction, such as drinking, smoking, junk food, etc. will most likely result in a relapse, and giving up. The key to success is the five ‘As’: Abstinence, Any length, Accountability, Action and Awareness.
First, you have to realise what it is the bad habit you need to avoid?
If you want to go to bed earlier, but find that you can’t because you’re playing games on your phone or using social media until 3 AM, then perhaps it’s time to cut them out altogether.
In 12 Step recovery, there’s a concept called “bottom lines”, which are destructive addictive behaviours you refrain from at all costs. Your bottom line might be that you will not go to bed past midnight.
Then there are “middle lines”; accessory behaviours which you want to avoid as they may lead you into trouble. If you’re trying to go to bed before 11 PM, then the middle line behaviour might be using a computer after 10 PM, because it may cause you to stay up late working or using Facebook.
And then there are “top lines”, which are positive behaviours. This might include taking a shower before bed, following a bedtime routine, dimming the lights after 10 PM, and so forth.
Refraining from a vice completely gives you more freedom as you don’t need to worry about controlling its usage and letting it spiral out of control. Unfortunately, many addictions get progressively worse until breaking point.
#2: Any Length
If you’re absolutely serious about quitting the bad habit, ask yourself: “Am I willing to go to any length to be free of this?”
This may mean putting in some extreme measures to ensure your abstinence from the addiction. For example, in the process of recovering from porn and sex addiction, I’ve installed numerous parental control software applications. As a result, sometimes I have to enter a password before accessing a lot of websites. There’s also many YouTube videos I can’t watch because I’ve forced Restricted Mode on my network, which means I can’t even watch videos which contain profanity. Despite the inconvenience, it’s worth it for gifts of recovery.
If you’re a smoker, you could change your route home so that you don’t walk past the shop where you usually buy cigarettes. If you’re a drinker, you could tell your friends that you’re not setting foot in a bar/pub for at least a year.
One of my struggles is getting to bed at a reasonable time. My brain prefers to be doing things, whether it’s writing, reading, watching YouTube, etc.
So, I have a “Bed Time Buddy”; someone who I text when I’m going to bed, and vice versa. We do this to be mindful of what time we’re going to bed, and to motivate each other to get to bed on time.
In 12 Step recovery, you regularly check-in with your sponsor (a type of mentor in the programme) and you are accountable to them for maintaining sobriety from your bottom lines.
Having someone who you are accountable to for your bottom and top lines will help to keep you motivated and focused on sticking to the good habits.
It’s all well and good to read articles about good habits, but the most important step is action. What actions can you take to help reinforce your good habit?
For example, if you want to:
- Lose weight and eat healthier, then start logging meals using MyFitnessPal
- Spend more mindfully, then install the OnTrees money tracking app
- Go to bed earlier, use Flux or Apple Night Shift so blue light doesn’t keep you awake
- Take more breaks when using a computer, then install Time Out to remind you
- Stop an addictive behaviour but can’t, then attend a 12 Step meeting
Have a think about the actions you can take to support your healthy habits.
The final piece of the puzzle is to try and be mindfully aware of your actions and behaviours so that you don’t slip back into the unhealthy and unconscious bad behaviours. Constantly check-in with yourself to see what your physiological needs are and try to avoid HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). When your basic needs aren’t met, that is when you are most likely to slip back into unhealthy habits.
Often, we use unhealthy habits to self-medicate difficult feelings. Next time you feel like eating a pint of ice cream or binging on Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, et al, try calling a friend or someone supportive to talk through your feelings. Perhaps you just need a hug and a chat.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity
Chances are many of you reading this article have tried, year after year, to quit the bad habit and have relapsed soon after. You may benefit from having a life coach; someone to help you work through your life problems and to help keep you on track. You may also benefit from trying out a 12 Step recovery group. Since Alcoholics Anonymous, many other groups have sprung up; there’s a 12 Step group for most addictions these days, anything from smoking, drugs, gambling, overeating to work, sex, love, video gaming, people-pleasing (Codependence), etc.
I occasionally write about habits and addiction. You might be interested to read my article about why you can’t stick to good habits and why we self-sabotage.