How to Break a Bad Habit - Dr Kamal Khurana
Updated: Oct 23
Indeed Bad habits can disrupt anyone's life. Also, they can become hurdles in achieving goals. Habits can impact one or more areas of life including career, health, family, etc. And of course, one ends up wasting time and even money.
The funny thing is that despite knowing it all, we still do them?
It is because we are habitual. We don't even realize that we are in it.
You get a trigger that starts impacting your mind and your mind gets into the loop. And then your mind starts taking you into emotional cycles of being frustrated and thinking low of self. And then after you unknowingly or habitually take some action (also called auto-response) that gets you a benefit.
The mind creates this auto-response when you are under Stress or boredom (idle time).
The mind uses an auto-response to handle the stress or boredom. Be it nail-biting, shopping to gambling, or anything, the mind (without your awareness) has learned to go in an auto-response cycle the moment you see the trigger to in the habitual response to create the outcome of satisfaction.
The fundamental that needs to be remembered is -
YOU CAN'T GET RID OF A HABIT - YOU REPLACE THE RESPONSE
WHAT CAN WE DO ?
First, understand these 4 fundamentals -
Only when you are committed that you will ensure that you will do away with the distracting habitual response. You need to keep remembering the very deeper objective in your mind. Focus on the ultimate positive future that you want to create for yourself. This has to a very deep impact future reality that you wish to create. Have this future reality as your die-hard goal for yourself. As if you don't achieve this positive goal your life will stop. If you really want to bring about a change this goal should be your focus.
Whenever the trigger appears in front of you(which reminds your mind of the obvious response, you have to with discipline implement a new response)
This is going to take time. The perfect results that stay long term deserve to be given that time. And it also calls for consistency and commitment. This is similar to expecting a fit body. If you consistently walk 30 minutes with a commitment, you will certainly see a drastic change in 6 months. But you are not supposed to check your weight every day because that will give you frustration which will further lead to demotivation and you will give up very soon. Going a further deep into this example - suppose you feel bored or irritated of your work and this trigger makes your mind go for an auto-response of munching nachos (even when you have had your lunch a half an hour ago), this will give you an immediate benefit of satisfaction and mood change. But this is going to also come with an addition to your weight. Here the trigger is boredom or a challenging problem at work. You have a choice to either allow your mind's auto-response of unneeded binging on nachos or you can replace your response with a new response of going for a walk(and giving a break to the problem solving). This 30 minutes of rigorous walk will also give you immediate satisfaction or distraction from boredom.
You can use this replacing the response to a constructive response in a lot of dependencies - be it - dependency of alcohol, tea, smoking or even on a person. These dependencies if not worked upon make you so vulnerable that a stage comes when you feel empty when you don't get that thing or a person.
So remember these 4 fundamentals -
You always have a choice to respond in a new way.
You need to discipline yourself to not get distracted even if there is a relapse
You need to choose the new response that works best for you
You need to be careful & well aware of the trigger & be firm in the presence of the trigger right at that point.
Also, following are a list of few facts that can help.
1. Replace the compulsive response with the new constructive response and building the new habit with continuous practice.
2. Build courage to confide in any person in your support system and share what you're experiencing and seek support to work together on your habit.
3. Explain any person in your support system, the need for seeking professional help related to the habit of treatment if it is impacting your life in a big way.
4. Talk with any person in your support system to identify underlying factors, such as stress, relationship conflict, so that you can work on them
5. Build understanding around the sensitive link between compulsive habit & emotional concerns that you need to work upon instead of feeling embarrassed
6. Identify specific triggers(time, situations, things) that lead to stress-related thoughts, so that you can isolate patterns to your triggers that can help you proactively avoid them
7. Make it difficult to indulge in anything that triggers you to get in the response cycle. Create a new environment that makes you focus on any productive & progressive objective of your life
8. Consciously replace your triggers with other pleasant thoughts and topics like scenic outdoor views, underwater scenes, puppies, sports bloopers, or chess strategy.
9. Take it up as a challenge to keep yourself away for compulsive thoughts and reward yourself on accomplishment, while not going into a guilt trip if you occasional flip back
10. Have a confidant who can motivate you and make you accountable for your goal of refraining from compulsive thoughts
11. Transform your compulsive drive into creative energy and take up some goal which is very meaningful to you and which you are emotionally connected with.
12. Focus on health building by exercising, healthy eating and balanced sleep such that the overall culture of health promotes you to refrain from indulgence in compulsive thoughts
13. Continuously remind yourself that life is way larger than compulsion and consider it as one small part of existence
14. Fill your idle times in your day with constructive routines while consciously practicing mindfulness so that you can focus on the task instead of taking it as an escape
15. Maintain a positive self-esteem and remind yourself that compulsion habit can happen to anyone while working on yourself and improve gradually without expecting an overnight change