Say Goodbye to Your Bad Habits
by Mary Childress
Everyone has some variety of habits. For the most part we recognize our habits, but how often do we recognize how they really affect us?
People generally do not consider how habits affect the many facets of their lifestyle. Try to analyze the structure of your lifestyle over a single week per say. What kind of repetition occurs? Would you consider this repetition a habit? How long has this pattern existed? And most importantly, do you want this habit to continue?
I believe that habits offer structure and stability. So even if habits are ‘bad’ for a person, once they’re habituated they offer a consistency that can be difficult to do without.
Let’s take a look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word habit; a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way (habit). I think that the most important part of this definition is the word “repeated”; repetition is a huge sign of any habit.
I like to imagine habits as if they are trees in a person’s brain. Let’s say someone has the habit of smoking cigarettes. The habit must start somewhere. Say it is that first cigarette, roots form thus setting a foundation for the possibility of growth. Say that person smokes again; the foundation will grow like the trunk of a tree developing from its roots. Say that person smokes again and again and again. The trunk of the tree will continue to grow, and branches upon branches upon branches will form. It is a lot of work to remove a big old tree, just like how it is difficult to end a habit.
The analogy of the tree is a good way to visualize the formation of habits because old ones can seem impossible to break. Since they are so hard to break, they tend to stick around. This may contribute to why habits repeatedly show up on a day to day basis. If you are used to doing something every day, you may feel less stable suddenly not doing that ‘something’ every day.
Unfortunately I think that bad habits, like smoking cigarettes, are easier to pick up than good habits. One cigarette can get a person hooked, and then the action can easily gain consistency and form a pattern in one’s lifestyle. But have no worries, bad habits are possible to break! According to the article “Why Bad Habits Are So Easy to Make and So Hard to Break”, some good steps to ending a bad habit include:
1) Identify/ admit the problem
2) Pick an alternative behavior to replace your bad habit (ex: do a push up every time you want to smoke a cigarette, drink tea instead of coffee, etc.) ~this helps with the stability issue~
3) Treat yourself with some sort of award every time you successfully avoid the bad habit (ex: eat a piece of chocolate)
“Bad habits are really just bugs in the system. With a few dedicated techniques it is perfectly possible to deprogram them” (Why Bad…).
The beautiful thing about good habits is that they generally stick around just as easily as bad habits. They are both trees with deep roots that will not easily budge. Although bad habits are hard to remove, it is doable. Your brain is like a forest, what invasive growth is holding you back? What new things would you like to plant? Learning to recognize and deal with bad habits could be the roots that develop a stable, healthy and happy lifestyle.
“Habit.”Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
“Why Bad Habits Are So Easy To Make and So Hard to Break.” Success, http://www.success.com/article/why-bad-habits-are-so-easy-to-make-and-so-hard-to-break