Often throughout addiction, you will also pick up some bad habits along the way. Making it past recovery was probably one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced. Now it’s time to tend to the bad habits that tagged along. On one hand, you may want to hold onto your bad habits as it’s something familiar. On the other hand, you know you can kick bad habits because you made it through addiction recovery. Smoking is one of the major habits that you still hold onto even though you’re past substance addiction. It is unlikely that you’ll go through addiction treatment and smoking cessation simultaneously. This leaves you still smoking even after you’ve stopped drinking or using drugs. Bad habits like smoking, hoarding, eating junk food, or spending too much time online hinder your life experience. They may not always be life threatening but they’re not healthy either.
What is a Habit?
Habits are behaviors that occur subconsciously. They are something we do often and they can be good or bad. Brushing your teeth after meals is a good habit. A bad habit is a patterned behavior that has proven to be detrimental to the physical or mental health of a person. Smoking or overeating are considered bad habits.
The Difference Between a Bad Habit and Addiction
There are similarities between a bad habit and addiction but they do differ. Addiction involves physical and psychological dependency. The habit of drinking when a person needs to cope quickly becomes a tolerance and dependency, making it an addiction. It takes a few weeks to break a habit but addiction can take months or years to recover from fully. In this regard, addiction is seen as a much more challenging issue than a habit.
Co-occurrence of Substances and Bad Habits
To illustrate this point, we’ll use smoking. Smoking is probably the most common bad habits that is picked up for addicts. It is more challenging to get smokers to stop when they’re going through alcohol withdrawal. Compared to other smokers who aren’t addicted to substances, they smoke more and higher amounts daily. This increases their dependence. Many smokers who suffer from alcoholism report that they use smoking to cope with alcohol or drug use urges.
1. Deal with Bad Habits one at a Time
Self-affirmation and self-control are what make up your willpower. Ego depletion is a term used to explain that we have a limited amount of willpower available on any given day. When it becomes taxed, it becomes more challenging to control impulses. If you are trying to deal with too many things at once, you won’t be able to deal with temptations. This is why it’s important to deal with breaking one bad habit at a time. Each habit you’re trying to change will require willpower, leaving you in a state of glucose depletion. Due to lack of energy, it can cause you to cave in quite easily.
2. Avoid Going Cold Turkey with Your Bad Habits
While going cold turkey might work for some, it’s based on the emphasis of perfection. There is a risk that the person could fall off the wagon. When you quit cold turkey, this equates to absolute failure which causes relapse. There is no mental wiggle-room for the moment you cave into temptation. This creates a feeling of defeat instead of taking each day at a time, you decide that you might as well binge on your habit. This causes you to take part in the habit more than you had before.
3. Daily Incremental Improvements
To permanently change and move past a bad habit, you want to focus on daily, incremental improvements. Tapering off to get rid of the habit helps you to succeed. Decrease the amount and the frequency that you do the bad habit. First, you’ll want to define your baseline metric. This will vary based on the bad habit you want to change. How many cigarettes do you smoke daily? How many times do you bite your nails in a day? How much do you weigh right now? How many calories are you consuming daily? How much time do you spend online or on social networks? How much time do you spend watching TV?
4. Retrain the Mind to See Your Bad Habit Differently
There are plenty of habits we do that we can’t stand. Biting our nails hurts and smoking tastes terrible and costs a lot of money. We keep on doing them because they provide a sense of satisfaction or a reward to the mind. Instead of glorifying the bad habit, reframe your mind to see things as they really are. Pay attention to the thoughts that occur when you are craving the bad habit. Ask yourself how you could think differently. Grow to greatly dislike the habit itself that you’ve been holding onto and note all of its bad points.
5. Review Your Bad Habit Relapse
Expect to experience relapses and with this anticipation, create a plan in advance to get back on track. See the relapse as a learning experience to help you better understand what happened. This will allow you to avoid it for the next time.
6. Understanding the Habit Loop in Yourself
Your best strategy for long-term success is to identify habit loops. Habit loops are actions that take you from the cue to reward. When you understand these actions, you’ll know how to take steps towards bad habit changes. You want to slowly replace habits with healthier routines. This way, you won’t focus on what’s missing in your life. You can find healthy routines that give you the same rewards. Every habit has the same pattern. They are as follows: The Cue: This is the situational trigger based on the personal reward you’re seeking. The Reward: The satisfaction you get when you follow the bad habit routine. The Routine: The physical or emotional action you take to get your reward.
7. Pay Attention to Your Bad Habit Triggers
We are constantly getting cues to take certain actions. The cue can be internal or external based on what one of your senses pick up. To really change bad habits, you have to understand why triggers happen. To do this, you should record information whenever you feel the desire to commit to your bad habit. The information is as follows: Location: Where are you? Time: Write down the time of day where the urge was felt. Mood: How were you feeling emotionally? People: Who were you with or what people were around you? Action: What were you doing at the exact moment the urge surfaced?
8. Make the Changes Based on Bad Habit Trigger Points
Once you begin to see the pattern of where, how, and why your bad habit urges arise, you can make changes. If you find that your triggers are happening every time you’re in a certain spot, it’s time to stop going to that spot. This goes for the people you spend time with, keeping your mood in a positive state, and doing certain things that trigger you. It can also help if you try the 20 second rule. This is where you tell yourself that even though a trigger has occurred, you’re going to give it 20 seconds before succumbing to your bad habit.
9. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
If you’re having a hard time recording information or making incremental changes on your own, you might want professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be incredibly helpful in complex addictions and mood disorders. A therapist will help you figure out what your cues are. The habits you have formed are learned so they can be unlearned also. When you do react differently to your cues, it weakens the habit. Within CBT, you will break habits with a step by step approach. They include:
- The decision to change.
- Use of tools that make you aware of cues.
- Devising strategies that assist in stopping the habit.
- Being consistent through the process and keeping track of everything involving the bad habit.
- Learn to manage your lapses.
With addiction and bad habits, you can heal yourself by having more positive interests. First you have to get to the emotional reasons that bad habits began in the first place. You don’t need to use substances or habits to cope with negativity in your life. Instead, you can use strategies to help you cope with whatever trauma comes up in your life. These tools are what will prevent further pain in your life. Once you do that, you can begin to replace those bad habits with good habits.