Changing habits; changing life

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Habits are important for life. In fact, you could say that a major portion of what we do today is actually based from habit; from how we brush our teeth, how we open a door, to things that impact our long-term physical and psychological health. Of course, identifying when we have a habit that is destructive or something that needs improvement and being able to build the capacity to break them is a crucial skill that all people have to cultivate. But why is it so hard?

No small battle

Naturally, when talking about destructive habits, some are more apparently destructive than others, while others are more insidious letting their effects accumulate until they reach a breaking point. But before anything, we have to realise that it’s easier to point a finger than to look into the mirror.

We often like to overlook our own misgivings and issues, because it’s difficult to accept that one has a problem that needs addressing. For some, this might require trained, professional guidance. For a bystander, a destructive behaviour or addiction could be pretty obvious to see but it’s a completely different story for the person living with the addiction.

Preferably, it’s the person who is struggling with an addiction or a behaviour which needs addressing who identifies that something needs to change. But if a concerned friend or loved one feels that the person needs a hand on the shoulder with some kind words, there are plenty of resources available for free both online and offline to help you.

You might notice my wording, and I stand by the fact that not all negative behaviour is related to an addiction, but it may be a habit that needs conscious action to improve on. The below concepts can help you whether it be in overcoming an addiction, or even smaller habits that you want to get over. It could be a dependence on coffee or sugar, eating disorders, being a workaholic, spending too much time on social media, the list goes on…

Being aware

Let’s say you identified what habit or addiction you want to break, congratulations because acknowledging it alone is half the battle. Now we can move on to breaking the habit.

A great place to start would be to identify the patterns to your behaviour and being observant to how your body and mind react. It has been said that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak and nothing rings true to this fact as breaking an addiction or habit. It involves changing how you react and respond to stimuli.

Perhaps meditation, and practising mindfulness can be a great place to start. Be aware of how your body reacts to situations and circumstances especially at times when you are stressed or idle. It is usually during these times when the brain tries to seek a dopamine hit either to escape or to occupy itself and the trigger to indulge happens, or at least the initial thought.

Getting in control

Most of the time, your body has a physical reaction to this trigger, and more often than not, we tend to give in to this. But recognising that this is a physiological response and controlling it is a skill that will be very useful for you to restrain or at least be mindful of negative behaviour or habits, even addictions.

Finding the willpower to override your body is difficult and it comes with practising discipline, and having a clear goal in mind or a purpose can go a long way in helping you to remain strong when the urge to give in is so easy. Wanting to give up an addiction or bad habit alone is a noble desire, but it can be a lot easier to get up in the early morning to exercise if you’re doing it to remain healthy and fit to see your newly born child’s wedding day. Motivation helps.

Failing forward

The sad things with overcoming bad habits or addictions are the fact that no matter how strong you may have become, and how far you’ve gotten over it, everything can come toppling down with a relapse. And when that happens it’s easy to just give up and let go.

It’s a fine line between a setback and a slip up that leads to a death spiral that can take you even lower than where you started out from. However, being able to build that resilience to accept when a setback happens and not let it affect your journey is the second most crucial aspect of overcoming these things.

As difficult as it may seem initially, I reassure you that the journey to overcoming an addiction or bad habit does get better and easier over time and the benefits are limitless. It builds character, it empowers the individual, and gives you the opportunity to experience freedom. It sounds cheesy but it’s true and that’s worth the setbacks and the hard times.

Life is all about falling forward, so take a chance at changing a habit you might feel needs addressing.

By Shanuka Kadupityage