Do you find yourself regularly biting nails? Or binge-watching TV? Or being stuck to your phone all the time? When a habit becomes harmful, either due to the time you spend indulging in it, or because of its effects on your mind and body, then it is a bad habit that needs to be changed. It is rather tough to find anyone who doesn’t have a bad habit. And so, it’s important to understand how to stop a bad habit permanently.
But how do bad habits form in the first place?
Habits are formed with repetition. A habit is an automatic behaviour where brain does not perform any conscious activity. That way your brain can keep itself free to focus on other things. So, whether it’s a habit of waking up early in the morning or overeating, your brain is on an auto-pilot mode in both the cases. But there’s a small yet crucial difference in these two types of habits. While pleasure based habits such as overeating, drinking, or smoking can be formed easily, you cannot give them up easily. On the other hand, at least some of you may have experienced the struggle of setting up a healthy sleep pattern. And then also wondered about how easily you slacked.
Why do you think this happens?
Enjoyable behaviours such as overeating, trigger your brain’s reward centers. They prompt your brain to release dopamine, a chemical in your brain. So, when you engage in repetitive behaviour in the presence of dopamine, such patterns become deep-rooted quickly. The habits formed are quite hard-wired. The dopamine keeps you craving for the same joyful experience and the habit becomes increasingly rigid.
The good news is that your brain is rather powerful. So, it is possible to get over bad habits through self-control. Research also suggests that it is possible to develop self-control through certain exercises, over a period.
How to stop a bad habit permanently?
Eliminating a bad habit overnight may not be realistic. But you can always replace it with a positive behaviour pattern.
Judson Brewer, psychiatrist and addiction expert shares that mindfulness can help in getting rid of toughest addictions. Bestselling author Peter Bregman shares a model that he has been employing to get rid of bad habits. Both these experts recommend becoming aware of your craving, resisting the urge, and then switching to a positive behaviour.
Step 1: Awareness
Firstly, you need to be aware that a certain habit is harmful. Then you need to understand the triggers or what leads you into that behaviour. So, if you have a habit of losing your temper every now and then, you first need to agree that it’s harmful behaviour. Then you need to keep a tab on how the emotional build up happens.
For example, you may observe a progression in your behaviour. Maybe, you hear an unpleasant statement, you dislike what you hear, your facial expressions change, and finally, you explode. Even if you become aware in the middle of an angry fit, you could observe what it has done to you, mentally and physically. Awareness will help you avoid indulging yourself in harmful habits.
Step 2: Resistance
Next step is to resist your urge. So, at whatever stage you become aware, you can stop getting played on by your urges. Once again, look at the example of a short-tempered person. In case your awareness kicks in before you explode, you can hold back your anger and subvert it. Being mindful and being aware can help you avoid your urges more often.
Step 3: Positive behaviour
As soon as you have resisted the urge, engage yourself in a positive activity. If you have managed to avoid getting angry at a colleague, just take five minutes off. Go for a walk on your own. Or splash your face with cold water. Do some physical activity that will help you channelize the anger in a positive way.
Remember that it requires complete dedication, patience, and perseverance from you to get rid of negative behaviour patterns. And with the help of these effective tips, you can surely say goodbye to them.
Must read: How to help your child cope with anger?