In our goal to break bad habits, it is very important to understand that habits, whether good or bad, actually functions to meet one of our needs. That is how it came into being in the first place. No matter how negative or destructive a habit may be, we develop and rely on that habit to get something from it.
For example take the bad habit of biting fingernails. Many people unconsciously bite their fingernails whenever they feel nervous. To them, biting fingernails is an outlet to release their pent up nervousness and anxiousness. So even though biting fingernails is a bad habit, it does serve a function. That was why the habit was developed.
Now, if you kicked a habit but did not find something else to replace it’s function, your body will eventually have to go back to the old habit because that particular function isn’t being performed. Take the biting fingernails example, if these people tried very hard to break that habit, but did not find an alternative outlet to release their nervousness and anxiousness, they will eventually go back to their old habit.
So it is very important that you identify what is the original function of your habit. What did you gain on a physical, psychological and emotional level from partaking in that bad habit? Which needs did it meet? It may be to relieve pain, relieve boredom, to be an outlet for emotions or something else.
Understand that by kicking the habit, you will also lose all these things. If that happens and there’s no alternative to replace it, your body will yearn to have it back on an unconscious level. If no alternative solution is found, the old habit will re-establish itself.
To discover the function of a particular habit, it is often necessary to look deeper into yourself and your actions. To do this, try to identify a regular pattern which leads you to doing the habit. Look for indicators to help you find the original purpose which made you develop that habit in the first place.
Find out details such as when do you normally do it; what time of the day; what usually happens before you indulge in the habit; what were you doing at that time; where is it (the location), who were you with etc. All these questions can help give clues to identify the purpose and function of a particular habit.
After you have identified the need that is being met by the habit, you must find a replacement for it. This is so that you can continue to meet that need even after you have kicked the habit. For example, if you smoke or drink to relieve stress, look for other outlets to do that such as exercising, meditating or taking up a hobby.
Look for positive ways to fill that gap and ensure that the replacement is effective and adequate. Only through doing that will you kick a habit for the long term.
Copyright (c) Ethan Beh