Suggestions for breaking bad habits

Do you think everyone has a bad habit or two, some much worse than others? Probably so. Bad habits provide short term pleasure and are a challenge to lose. You have to be aware of the offending habits so you can conscientiously work at replacing them with good habits.

A bad habit is a pattern of behavior that is considered bad for your physical or mental health. Much of the time a bad habit is related to a lack of self-control. Some examples are alcohol and drug abuse, consumption of tobacco in any form, overeating, regularly eating junk food, late-night partying and compulsive activities like gambling, sexual addiction, shopping addiction, among other things. A bad habit is an unhealthy habit.

Self-control is being able to control your emotions and desires or how you express them, especially when you are dealing with a difficult situation. That takes a lot of inner strength. It requires a lot of practice to get better at it.

Why do people develop bad habits?

It’s something you learn to perfect over a period of time and became easier as you got comfortable with it … became habitual, automatic without thinking about it.

“It turns out that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a ‘habit loop,’” according to Habits: How They Form and How to Break Them at NPR.org. This is a three-part process: 1. Cue or trigger; 2. Routine; and 3. Reward.

The trigger tells your brain to let a behavior happen, to let it become automatic. You let it happen over and over again until it becomes a routine. Your brain likes it so much it becomes a habit. This happens in the part of the brain where we develop our emotions, memories and pattern recognitition.

Decisions aren’t made here, “But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts.” You don’t think about it anymore. It just is part of your behaviors.

How do you break bad habits?

The more you do something, the harder it is to change, according to the experts. First, you have to be aware of it. When do you do that particular behavior and when did you begin it? Why do you continue to do it? When you understand, write it all down, pros and cons of the habit you want to break. Then find a temporary or permanent replacement, or good habit.

Develop a practice of concentrating on a focus point … steady breathing, an object, a sound, something you visualize in your mind’s eye, or even the bad habit that you wish to change. This should be a quiet time when you can take your time without distraction. You increase your awareness of the now, reduce your stress and relax more. This is the practice of meditation.

Another thought is to change the environment, the setting around you where you do the bad habit. When you interrupt the automatic sequence that leads to doing the habit, you will wake up the decision-making part of your brain and make better choices, replacing the bad habit with a good one.

It takes time and practice to make the switch, but you can do it.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.

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