How To Change Toxic Habits
written by: Kosjenka Muk
(Note: if you're not able to translate this page in Firefox, please disable Flashblock extension in Add-ons, restart Firefox and try again, or disable NoScript for this page.)
How many times did you make such a decision: starting tomorrow, I will quit smoking, biting my nails, overeating, drinking coffee... or: I will start exercising, watch less television, be more organized... Typically, such decisions appear easy to put into practice, starting tomorrow, of course, just a little effort and attention needed.
Tomorrow comes and we start to feel stronger and stronger resistance to our decisions. Continuing old habits feels so comfortable and harmless, while new habits appear unpleasant, difficult or boring. Your body starts sending signals that something is missing, and your brain readily comes with excuses: just a little bit... it's not THAT harmful, really... today can be the last day... I guess my body needs it when I feel such an urge for it...other people do it and it doesn't seem to hurt them that much...I need some pleasure in my life...and you yield almost without noticing.
Rational decisions and willpower are rarely enough to enable us to keep our decisions, except if the problem is relatively simple and recently created. If you have unsuccesfully tried to quit a bad habit several times, probably there is some deeper, unconscious motivation that needs some way to manifest itself. Similarly as if we try to suppress emotions, such needs will create stronger and stronger physical and mental pressure, until they finally break through. Then we migh turn back to old habits, or develop new ones as a substitute. (Remember, for example, how many people quit smoking only to start overeating instead.) If we succeed in avoiding any of that, our unconscious needs might manifest themselves through autoaggression, i.e. causing come kind of psychosomatic disorder.
Many habits, just as most addictions, are used as a way of controlling emotions, whether suppressing unpleasant emotions, or creating the pleasant ones, if for some reason we are unable to create them by ourselves. Notice, after you spend some time fighting the urge to continue with a toxic habit, do you start to experience emotions like anger, nervousness, anxiety, depression? Or maybe something is missing - pleasure, excitement, comfort, fun, relaxation, feeling of achievement (like with video games)?
To get rid of a bad habit, firstly you need to resolve those emotions, or find a different, healthier way to feel better. As a first step, when you feel the urge to return to a bad habit, instead of trying to control it rationally, close your eyes and focus on your emotions. Maybe some parts of you need just a little attention and comfort, or there is some long-term emotion that needs to be resolved? Or maybe you need to invest some time and effort to learn to create good feelings you want?
What are the benefits?
Toxic habits might be a part of a family tradition and the way to feel close with a member or members of our family. This is something that people rarely consider. Sometimes you might feel an unconscious need to understand a family member better, or to express loyalty. Or perhaps, along with "inherited" anxiety, anger etc. we have accepted the traditional family ways of suppressing those feelings? Or do you maybe express some feelings that your parents were stronly suppressing, like sexuality or anger? That might be the cause of obsessive behavior, for example internet porn addiction (although not necessarily the only cause).
All these emotional elements of the issue are the reason why the attempts to change a toxic habit rationally are often in vain. Many people hope that somebody or something else - a pill, or tea, or positive suggestions - can solve their problem. However, if the cause is not addressed, the results will be short-term and the person will soon return to the unwanted habit, or the emotional urges will find some other way to manifest themselves (through creating other kinds of issues). The only long-term solution is to resolve the cause of the problem.
Physiological aspects of a toxic habit might take less time to resolve, but sometimes might be more intense, like the effects of detoxification. It's often more difficult to find even short-term relief for physiological than emotional component of a bad habit. We offer some tips and tricks to help you "fool your brain" and motivate yourself.
Write these tips down and keep them in an easily accessible place (or several places), where you can be easily reminded of them. It's important to take time, close your eyes and check your feelings every time you feel an urge to follow your excuses and automatisms. You might come up with some of your own helpful tricks, and to help you get started, we offer the following:
Keep in mind that you will experience most difficulties in the beginning, especially considering physiological habit or addiction. However, you will probably feel much better already after two or three weeks. A couple of months later, you might find it difficult to imagine going back to old habits.
(Note: if you're not able to see or use Facebook plugins, please disable Flashblock extension in Add-ons, restart Firefox and try again, or disable NoScript for this page.)
© Kosjenka Muk
Trnsko 13a, HR-10000 Zagreb
phone: +385 1 6521 213
cell phone: +385 98 9205 935
ID (OIB): 29765297465
|© 2007. Centar Angel • all rights reserved • powered by TATA|