Have you ever had a bad habit that you wanted to get rid of but you just couldn’t seem to muster up the will power to do it?
Maybe it was something as harmless as biting your nails or pulling at your hair. It could be something as common as eating too much junk food, watching too much TV, or spending too much time on the computer, internet, or social media. Or it could be something like expressing your anger in unhealthy ways, drinking too much alcohol, drugs, or pornography.
Each one of us at some point or another has struggled with overcoming a bad habit. Chances are you are trying to overcome one right now. So how do we walk away from the habits that are moving us away from the lives that we want to live?
Replace a bad habit with a good habit.
A lot of us have tried to use our willpower to overcome the bad habits in our lives. We think if we just try harder to resist that last piece of cake, the urge to bite our nails, or to have another drink we’ll eventually be able to do it on our own.
But the truth is willpower isn’t enough. No matter how disciplined or strong you may be eventually you will give in to whatever that habit is because it’s just that: a habit.
Habits become so ingrained into the wiring of our brains that many times they become too difficult to resist. In order to walk away from our bad habits we need to replace them with newer, healthier habits.
Here are five ways you can begin to replace your bad habits with good ones:
1. Identify the habits you want to walk away from.
Make a list of the habits that you want to overcome. Everything from nail-biting to drinking and pornography, and everything else in between. Then put them in order of importance.
2. For each bad habit write down a replacement habit.
One of my bad habits is snacking and eating too much junk food. So when I feel the urge to snack or overeat instead of grabbing some ice cream or another slice of cake I grab a bowl of grapes, an apple, or a banana and eat that instead. If that still doesn’t cut it I go for a walk or drink a glass of water to help fill me up.
Notice that I’m not trying to fight my bad habit with willpower; I’m simply replacing the bad habit (snacking and eating junk food) with a better one (eating fruit and going for a walk).
For each habit that you put on your list in point one make a list under each of those items and begin to brainstorm what habits you can replace them with. Go to this list when you feel the urge to indulge in that lesser habit and choose one of the better ones from this list.
3. Remove as many temptations as you can.
If you have a problem with junk food throw away all the junk food in your house. If it’s a bad relationship with an ex or a “friend” who is not a great influence go out of your way to make sure you don’t cross paths. You probably won’t be able to remove every single temptation from your life, but do the best you can to remove as many as you can.
4. Ask others for help.
No matter what you’re going through you are not alone. There are many people who have gone through what you’re going through or are going through it right now. Find those people and work together to help each other out. It may be as simple as asking your spouse and some friends to keep you accountable, or it may be as formal as joining AA, another support group at a church in your neighborhood, or seeking out a professional counselor. Whatever you decide get involved with a community of people who will support and help you in your journey.
5. Give yourself some grace.
No matter how well you work this system you’re bound to mess up from time to time. That’s totally normal. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Be honest about it with yourself and the people you’ve enlisted to help you in step four, identify what went wrong, learn from it, make changes, and move forward. Guilt and shame won’t help you walk away from your bad habits, but learning from your mistakes will.
Walking away from bad habits is hard. We’ve spent so much time building those habits and we’ll need to put in some time to replace them with better ones. Choose one or two habits to work on and focus on those first. As you experience more success in walking away from those bad habits by replacing them with good ones you can begin to work on the others that you put on your list in step one.
Don’t resist it; replace it.