How to break a bad habit and replace it with a good one.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviour that is acquired through frequent repetition. An established disposition of the mind or character.
We all have habits, things as simple as eating habits or following a particular route to work/school; things you do before leaving the house; a specific place you drop your keys when you come home; your cooking pattern etc.
Unfortunately, we also develop some patterns or habits that are bad. And we fight endlessly to change them, sometimes in vain.
The goal of this article isn’t just to help you break a wrong or undesirable habit. Its goal is to help you replace that bad habit with a right or desirable one. Since bad habits are learned through practice and repetition, we can also develop good habits through the same mechanisms.
Here are some ways that will help you break bad habits and replace them with good ones:
1. Write down what you’ve lost or missed as a result of bad habits and what you’ll gain through good habits.
It’s possible that on several occasions you’ve spent time thinking about the things you’ve lost or opportunities you’ve missed because of these bad habits, including friends and family.
But I want you to do something different – write them down instead. I want you to see your thoughts on paper, in black and white.
This helps to offload these thoughts from your brain and for the first time, maybe, you’ll become fully aware of the cost of those habits.
Seeing your thoughts is a powerful tool, a reality check sort of.
Then, turn to another page and write down all the things you stand to gain if you replace those habits with good ones. The gains could be an improvement in your health, social life, relationship with Jesus Christ, career, family etc.
Just pen them down and envision what life would be if you had them accomplished. Now, let that be your drive.
2. Identify the stimuli or triggers that stimulate the bad habits and remove them.
By triggers I mean the things, persons or situations, including an environment that elicit such habits.
They could be stress, anxiety, depression, idleness, talking with a particular person(s), reading certain books or articles, watching certain movies, having junk food in your refrigerator, entertaining certain discussions etc.
Whatever it is or they are, you need to cut them off. For example, a number of people are into bad habits like overeating, alcoholism etc. because they’re stressed with several things. So, it’s very important to reduce stress.
Also, if you discover that you’re constantly binging on junk food because you’re refrigerator is filled with those, stop going to that side of the grocery shop or following that pathway home. Rather determine to get healthy meals, fruits and vegetables and keep the junk away from sight.
If idle mind and loneliness make you watch pornography, spend more time outdoors, stay with friends and when at home keep your doors and windows open; don’t look at certain images; Set your browser to block negative images; study in the library; clean up your phone of nude images etc.
It requires determination and discipline, especially at the beginning but always remember how good you’ll look in months from now and let that motivate you to keep moving.
If it’s depression and anxiety that trigger you to drink alcohol, take drugs or watch nude images, seek professional help or speak to someone who can help you out.
The point is to try as much as possible to remove the triggers or keep yourself far from them. This is important because you want to avoid the “rising and falling” syndrome.
3. Stop thinking about the bad habits. Turn off your brain.
A number of people spend days thinking about how to stop a bad habit. Days soon become weeks and weeks become months and months turn into years. Yet the habits remain and they might even pick up a few other bad habits.
You need to realise that always thinking about a bad habit only reinforce it.
If you find yourself taking Coca-cola daily, and you keep thinking of how to stop, you’ll likely end up taking it twice or more daily because by thinking, you develop a pattern in your mind that makes you do the thing you dislike.
You take it not for the taste, but because it’s become a pattern your brain has adjusted into. It becomes a vicious circle.
Think of how many times you’ve bemoaned yourself about those habits but you’ve been unable to stop them. Why? Because the more you think about a thing, the more it’s reinforced in your brain, it becomes so weaved into the fabrics of your mind that repeating those habits becomes a sort of reflex action.
Also, thinking more about evil only magnifies the devil behind it. Just turn off your brain. And then Reboot.
4. Turn on the light and darkness will fizzle out. It’s a rule.
I want you to picture yourself coming into your room at 1 pm and everywhere is dark. What will you do next? My guess is that you’ll turn on the light switch. Open the windows. Roll up the blinds and allow the sun rays to illuminate the room.
You don’t spend the next 3 hours complaining about how dark the room is and how you can’t find your way around.
And once the sun rays come in, darkness gives way.
This same rule applies to stopping a bad habit and developing a good one. Once you begin to see a bad habit developing in you, turn the lights on!
The Bible says something very important in Philippians chapter 4 verse 8:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
This scripture is so important that it has become an antidote to several things in my life. It guides you on the things to think about and to do.
So, instead of wasting time thinking about the bad habits, why not replace them with thoughts of things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report and that have virtue and praise.
Focus on replacing the habits with good ones, not just on removing the bad habits. That’s the bottom line.
5. Surround yourself with people who can hold you accountable.
Sharing your most secret habits and faults with someone can be quite tasking. It’s almost as though you’re getting nude before a stranger; you feel vulnerable and your mind goes through all the things that could go wrong with such a decision. I get that.
I’m not asking you to share your bad habits with a complete stranger per sé, I’m only asking that you find someone trustworthy, honest, loving, caring etc but also firm, who will understand you, maybe help you with wise counsel but most importantly hold you accountable.
They can also be people who overcame what you’re going through. Or are on the same journey of freedom as you are. The important thing is that they’re pulling you up, not drawing you down.
So, find someone you respect and trust, that can constantly check on you to make sure you’re ticking those decision boxes of overcoming the habit. He or she will also join you in praying. It helps a lot.
This might sound like a cliché but it’s actually very important. Until you’ve discovered your purpose, life won’t make much meaning to you and your time could be wasted picking up habits that make no sense.
It’s very necessary that you go to God, our Creator, to know why you’re here. And once you’ve known it, spend your energy pursuing it.
The moment you get yourself engaged in an overwhelming just cause, certain bad habits will drop, sometimes unknowingly. Because truly speaking, some bad habits are results of wallowing in a maze of purposelessness.
7. God, our Helper in the pit of bad habits.
Believe it or not, you need the help of God.
While some bad habits can be changed by mere firm determination and discipline, there are others that our willpower can’t help us overcome because we’re limited.
So, breaking these bad habits requires a Supernatural intervention to effect sustained change. I’m a strong believer in the ability of The Most High God to transform a man.
However, here is a thing to be noted: that you prayed doesn’t strip you of your responsibility to remain determined and disciplined.
Prayers will be of no use if you plan to return to the triggers. It’s like saying “God, I’ll place my hands over the fire to test if you have what it takes to stop the fire from burning my hands.”
Well, your hands will get burnt but God still remains God, the Almighty. So, pray and remain disciplined. And I’m convinced that God will help you.
It’s important to always bear in mind that results take time. While some habits can be broken in weeks, others may require months or even years. But that shouldn’t discourage you. If you learned it, you can unlearn it. It’s very possible.
So, you need to be persistent and patient, and soon the results will amaze you. Many did it, you can do it too.
May God’s hand lead you on this journey and may His light shine on your path in Jesus name. Amen.
I’d like to know other ways you’ve discovered that can help to break a bad habit. Tell me in the comments section below.