Bad Habits. We all have them, and we all would like to get rid of them. However, so many of us fail and get sucked back into the brutal cycle of following these bad habits, eventually, negatively affecting our quality of life by:
I am no exception to this. I have tried and failed miserably many times trying to overcome my biggest vices. One habit I really had a hard time shaking was my inability to wake up early. This vice was affecting my life very badly, to the point where, during my college days, I would reach my first class late. This would result in me losing attendance for that class and eventually being forced to pay heavy fines at the end of the semester. My irregular sleeping habits even caused me to fall asleep during class hours!
It felt like no matter what I tried, I couldn’t overcome this habit and I almost started to believe that I was doomed to wake up late and pay fines forever. That sort of mentality is dangerous, because it leads to something called ‘learned helplessness’, which is another topic in itself. But the basic essence of it is that, its a condition where the person suffers from a sense of powerlessness that arises, in this case, from the persistent failure to succeed.
Though you should be happy; you and I are already at an advantage because we choose to ask the question:
Asking this question and trying many different ways to solve this problem, I finally overcame this bad habit (and many others) by following certain steps. I quickly realized that these steps could be applied to ANY habit that I wanted to successfully quit, or replace with better habits and become a happier person that felt more fulfilled.
I was actually pretty surprised at how well I was able to stick to it after following these steps and how my lifestyle and perspective on a lot of things started to change. I then felt obliged to share my experience regarding this because, if I can do it, anybody can, and if at least one person could benefit from what is shared here, then I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do.
I’ve compiled a list of things that I found helpful on my path to quitting my bad habits. Note that it's not absolutely necessary to follow EVERY SINGLE STEP to be able to quit a habit. The number of steps that need to be followed to quit the habit vary from person to person, so I advise you to start small and build from there. Keep on trying the things in the list below UNTIL YOU SUCCEED. PERSISTENCE IS KEY!
Think of a habit that you would like to quit and WRITE it down on a piece of paper. Choose just one habit. Simplicity is the best way to go, and this helps you narrow down your focus on just quitting one thing instead of letting your mind wander and think about all the other habits that you would like to quit. Also this step means that you’ve taken a solid step in finally bringing your DESIRE of quitting the habit from an intangible form (your thoughts) into a tangible physical form (ink on paper).
This ties closely to step 1. A lot of times we say we want to quit a habit and then somewhere along the line LIFE HAPPENS, your motivation levels deplete, you lose hope in your ability to actually follow through, and your attraction towards the momentary pleasure of doing your bad habit overcomes the long-term benefits of quitting your habit. Motivation is crap. The only way you will be able to stick to what you set out to do (in this case, overcome your bad habit) is to have a STRONG REASON for why you want to quit the habit. It also helps to write down this reason next to the habit that you specified you wanted to quit. This way, when times get tough, you can remember the real reason for why you are doing this and stick to it.
Every habit, including bad ones, have triggers. For example: a person that has a bad habit of eating junk food all the time may be triggered to do their bad habit (that is, eat junk food) whenever they walk down the snacks isle at a grocery store, or when they sit down to watch a movie at night in the comfort of their own home, or when they are just sitting around bored, or even when they are stressed out or upset about something.
In my case, the major reason behind me waking up late was the fact that I slept very late. One of my major triggers was my phone. To be more precise, it was all the social media and chat apps on my phones that kept me awake all night. This led to me sleeping late, and waking up even later. Hence, as soon as I figured out that this was my trigger, I avoided it as much as I could. I took measures like keeping my phone away at night while sleeping by keeping it for charge some place far away. Or I would make a conscious effort not to use social media and chat apps after a certain time at night to ensure that I would sleep early.
Basically, through repetition, the goal is to teach your mind a new habit in the place of the old bad habit that you want to get rid of. So if you have a habit of stocking up on junk food while watching movies, try scacking on some crunchy celery sticks and carrots instead. What I did instead of using my phone was I started reading books. This helped me use my free time wisely and also helped me fall sleep much easier. Books have always helped me sleep better, especially during college semester exams! :D 5. Visualize yourself succeeding
Before you succeed in what you set out to do, you must believe with all your heart and soul that you will succeed. Visualization is a way to accomplish this. Use all your senses and actually picture, feel, smell and taste success. I’m my particular case, I would first think about my desire to wake up early and then actually visualize myself sleeping early, and I would picture myself turning off the alarm and I would feel the coldness of the air conditioner in the morning and how comfortable the bed would feel and I would fight the urge to stay in bed and jump out and move on with my day.
Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, and that is OK. Be aware of this fact and plan for failure. Dwelling on how and why you keep messing up and doing the bad habit is not going to help one bit. Understand that we are all only human, and it is in our nature to make mistakes. No one is perfect. What matters is that you get back on track again, QUICKLY. See what happened, accept it, create a better plan for the next time you fail. Your plan will get better and better each time as you improve it until you eventually and inevitably succeed.
Basically, this means making your habit less exciting and pleasurable. For example, whenever I woke up late during the weekdays, I ended up missing class, which meant loss of attendance. Think of anything that makes your bad habit less appealing in anyway possible. However be careful, negative reinforcement in a wrong way leads to ‘learned helplessness’.
When ever you feel the urge to do a bad habit, notice the urge and delay. It is dangerious to act on an urge without thinking as soon as it comes. Instead, try being curious and observe the urge come and rise. While this happens, just sit there and be curious about what is actually happening, what you are feeling at that moment, and what would happen if you CHOSE NOT TO ACT ON IT. You will notice that the urge comes, rises, and if you succeed in not acting on it immediately, it falls.
Delay your reaction, just sit there, and you will realize that the urge will simply go away. Go for a walk, do a couple push ups, listen to music, drink some water, breathe, do anything contructive to get yourself out of the situation and you will end up fine. These steps are in no way easy to do, nor will it solve all your habit problems in 5 minutes. However, if you plan on quitting your vices and improving your overall quality of life, following the above steps are necessary. Trying to do so without the above steps will for the most part, only lead to failure. There is no way you could fail if you truly desire to quit and change your ways. Put your heart and soul into your efforts. You can do this!
Knowing more and aligning your mind more closely with reality better equips you to navigate it.