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Healthy Ways To Quit Your Bad Habits

written by Guest Blogger November 22, 2012

I’m getting closer to the end of my rope with some of my out-of-control behaviour. You’ll hear more about that soon but for now, today’s guest post by Joyce Del Rosario is helping me gear up to take control! If you overeat, blow your budget, smoke, drink, gamble, watch too much TV, surf the net too much… (you get the point), then keep reading! 

You have a bad habit. It annoys you or it annoys others. Worse yet, it’s just plain bad for you. So, why not just stop doing it? Just throw out that pack of cigarettes. Get rid of all that fattening stuff in the pantry – especially if it contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Just quit snapping that gum or popping those knuckles.

Just say. “Stop it!” to bad habits. Easy? Right? No. Plenty of evidence exists that shows bad habits are hard to kick. Why, just punching your browser with “quit bad habits” will introduce you to one of the most populated niches on the web. Niche? Probably more like warehouse a la the U.S. National Archives. (Home of the lost ark?)

Just Saying “No” Rarely Works

Not to discourage those who choose to go “cold turkey,” immediate and final abstinence has worked for quite a few people and it could possibly work for you. Just don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t. Ways do exist to help you quit successfully without this extreme manoeuvre.

Man has probably been working against bad habits since the first cave wife threw the first cave husband out of the cavern for spitting on the stalagmites. And surveying the warehouses full of literature on the subject, nothing really new has been introduced to quell bad habits since then. Dumping a bad habit still requires the basics:

  • Recognizing that a habit is bad. If you live alone, tuneless humming or knuckle cracking may not be bad. Snoring can lead to divorce, not to mention cardiovascular and lung disorders.
  • Defining why the habit is bad. No doubt exists regarding the harm caused by cigarette smoking. But that’s too general. A quitter needs to read all the specific details and look at all the gory pictures.
  • Observing or experiencing the negative effects of the habit. Procrastination can ruin a freelance writing business based on deadlines. Annoying personal hygiene issues can cause people to avoid you. (Nose-blowing comes to mind.)
  • Mustering the desire to banish the habit or substituting it with a better one. Hopefully, gathering information on the issues above will offer the impetus to start. First steps are often hardest. If you go that route, finding a substitute habit can be a challenge.
  • Maintaining the discipline to follow through until the problem is resolved. Another tough one. Desire without discipline doesn’t do too well. Though this is the stage where good intentions get overwhelmed, a number of ways exist to get you through.
  • Enlisting the assistance of others. Colleagues and friends can help keep you honest. With close friends and family helping, you stand a better chance of succeeding because so many will want you to succeed.
  • Changing or altering situations and environments. If you’re bucking drinking or smoking, you need to quit hanging out in pubs. Changing scenes is easy. Having to avoid people because of their bad effect – that can be hard.
  • Helping others overcome similar bad habits. Not really required to quit a bad habit, but it could be part of your goal. It might be satisfying to be the guru who can help others meet deadlines or improve work routines.

Make Quitting Healthy

Now that you’ve read the list of the basic strategies to employ when dumping a bad habit, you can add even more impetus to your goal of “clean” living by making it a venture that will improve your health beyond the obvious benefits, such as quitting cigarettes or cutting back on hard drink. While kicking bad habits can be difficult, it can be the introduction to living a healthier, happier life.

Understand Habits

To approach habits in a healthy way, you must understand them. All habits share two traits:

  1. They allow automatic behaviour which frees up the mind for other thinking.
  2. Obeying a habit often washes your brain’s reward centers with a substance called dopamine – producing a very pleasurable sensation.

Habits generally come in two flavours:

  1. Behavioural Habits. Nail biting, chewing hair, cracking knuckles, are all examples of behavioural habits that are annoying personally, or to others. These are best conquered by changing the bad one for a good one, or altering your activity altogether.
  2. Addictive Habits. Smoking, many drugs, liquor, and sometimes even food have a hold on the physical body, causing some physical discomfort when the activity is stopped. So, not only does the quitter have to deal with the behavioural aspects of the habit, he or she must also face the physical malaise that accompanies its cessation.

Remember Body and Soul

Any life worth living must be lived with regard to mental and physical issues. While it is imperative that you focus on one bad habit at a time; you can join that focus with a general housekeeping of your life. Look at the whole situation – the habit you’re dumping and your life in general – as a time of renewal or replenishment.

Mental Renewal:

  • Creating. The defining point of the human brain is its creative ability. Don’t deny yourself this most human of capabilities – creating – by writing, painting, quilting, whatever, to lend even more reason for being to your life.
  • Being alone. Learn to be comfortable with yourself, not bored.
  • Meditating. Most of the spiritual and positive-thinking gurus advocate some inward contemplation to round out a full life. This can be very structured, as in transcendental or yoga exercises, it can be prayer, or it may be informal, quiet time alone to think deeply.
  • Dealing. Don’t let things pile up. No matter how uncomfortable, approach situations immediately and make the best of them.
  • Downplay drama. Thinking and talking about breaking a habit will probably make it feel like a huge deal. This will make each day much harder mentally and you could feel overwhelmed. High drama will affect you and those around you in a negative way.
  • Look ahead. See all of your future – without your habit and with new venues for life – in your mind. You could remind yourself of the positive and negative consequences of your habit-changing and-life changing efforts by writing them down and reviewing them whenever you feel like quitting and going back to the bad old days.

Physical Renewal:

  • Exercise. The benefits of exercise are legion. It doesn’t have to be that much or that strenuous. It will lend a healthy aspect to your habit-changing manoeuvres.
  • Healthy food. Start being picky – without being a prig – about what you eat. A body is only as good as the stuff you put it in it. Research a new diet strategy and try it out.
  • Sleep. This must be important because we have evolved to spend a third of our lives doing it. Lack of sleep causes stress and that doesn’t help when you’re kicking a habit.
  • Be mindful of stress. Watch your breathing, body tension, and stressed-out thoughts. This could have been under mental renewal, but rapid breathing, tense muscles, and worrying thoughts are at the center of many physical ailments. Learn to control them.
You’re One in a Healthy Million

You will ultimately succeed. Realize that whatever habit you want to lose, thousands if not millions have done so before. Also, cut yourself some slack. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University who studies decision-making and willpower, avers that,

“Self-control is like a muscle. Once you’ve exerted some self-control, like a muscle it gets tired.”

So whenever you think that it’s too difficult to stay on course, just remember that it won’t be so for long. Many experts suggest that if you’re at it for three months, you’ve probably conquered your bad habit and, hopefully, put a healthy glow to your life as well.

About the Author

Joyce Del Rosario is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading providers of Nutrition Courses (http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/courses/health/allied-health/certificate-iv-allied-health-assistance-nutrition-and-dietetics) and Personal Training Courses (http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/courses/natural-therapies/personal-training-fitness/certificate-iv-in-fitness). When not working, Joyce blogs about health and fitness.

Can you add any tidbits of information to this post or share any handy tips you’ve used in the past to break a bad habit?

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