Breaking Bad Habits

By Audrey Marlene

Bad Habits

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What are Bad Habits?

According to a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, habit forming activities alter a specific region of the brain known as the basal ganglia, an area vital to habits and addictions. Part of this change is seen as if that portion of the brain takes on a memory of the habit. With this memory, a practice can be triggered if again exposed to old cues, making it difficult to break old, unfavorable habits.

A habit is an urge to carry out an action or behavior no matter the consequences. There are healthy and unhealthy practices that we participate in every day. Habits, especially the unhealthy ones get in the way of our goals and our ability to achieve them. Bad habits have the capability to dominate your life, forming a shackle around you, and making a slave out of you. Before realizing it, your negative patterns will become your master and most everything you do will revolve around it. You may lie, cheat or deceive just to maintain your bad habit. You can become a puppet to your bad habits. You can have the toughest of characters, it doesn't matter - the negative habits will restrain you from making the progress you are truly capable of in your life. It will own you!

Unhealthy habits don't appear bad at first encounter - the first greasy burger, the first snort of cocaine, the first cigarette, the first drink, the first time you cheated on your mate, the first gambling session, the first lie, or the first time you yelled at the kids. At first, you still feel in control - even the second time may not seem so bad. But the compulsion quickly takes over especially if the stimulus has highly addictive qualities. When this happens, even though the mind may want to say "no", the body's addiction holds you hostage to the usage.

We all would like to think we are in control of our own lives. You tell yourself "nothing can ever control me." You spend enormous amount of time and money to ensure that so many aspects of your life are intact - your looks or the public image your portray. But there can be that one little secret that slowly undermines you and the credibility to seek to maintain.

Use this information to bring honest introspection to your life. If you see someone running down the highway into oncoming traffic, would you run after them to save them? Of course you will! So it is with bad habits. Wouldn't you want to save yourself from a something that can potentially destroy you and prevent you from achieving your optimum?

Identifying Unhealthy Habits

The first step in breaking bad habits is to identify them. I mentioned certain specific habits above but negative habits can also come in other forms. For example, you may have a habit of criticizing others or gossiping. You may be a constant worrier suffering from severe anxiety and insomnia. You may be a compulsive shopper and financially irresponsible. Whatever the habit, you must first seek to identify it.

There are times when it can be difficult to identify our bad habits. As human beings we tend to associate with people who enable our habits. By doing so, the guilt and shame of the habit is disguised. Before long, the unhealthy habit begins to define you. You become known as the sex addict, or the television junkie, or the very obese one. Look at yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Identifying your negative habits is a form of acceptance of your patterns of behavior, which is the first step toward kicking them.

So can you identify your unhealthy habits? Many of you are already aware what they are. When I had had a problem with substance abuse the following were things I asked myself:

  • Is (fill in this space with the habit) holding me back from achieving my goal(s)?
  • Does (fill in this space with the habit) make me feel good about myself?
  • Is (fill in this space with the habit) something I feel proud of?
  • Is (fill in this space with the habit) something I feel comfortable doing in the open around my friends and family without causing me embarrassment?
  • Is (fill in this space with the habit) something I would encourage my child to do?
  • Do I listen to the advice of loved ones when they identify my negative habits or do I get on the defensive?

  • Begin today to identify your patterns of behavior. If you are having difficulty, find a life coach who can help you. Once your negative habits are identified, your coach will assist you in kicking the habit or help you find a professional who can. Before long you will be able take back your life and accomplish all the goals you have set for you.

    Examine Your Bad Habits

    Once you have identified your bad habits, it's time to examine them to see how they affect your life. There are certain things to look for when examining these habits.

    1. Examine how much time and effort goes into this habit. This helps you to bring into your conscious mind the extent of your habit. Think about how many years you have been stuck in this habit. Start to monitor your time by keeping a daily log of how much time you are engaged in this habit. For example, if your habit is to sit and watch TV for hours, add up the amount of hours spent in front of the TV. Add it all up - the number of hours per day, per month, per year, times the number of years. Use this knowledge to become aware of how much of your precious time is wasted and how much control the television has over your life.

    2. Examine how much money is spent on your habit. Make a conscious effort to log the amount of money you spend daily on you habit. For example, if your habit is drinking alcohol, add up how much you spend at the bars, or at the liquor store on a daily basis. Add it up at the end of the week and multiply it by the number of months or years you are stuck in this habit. Become aware of how your hard earned dollar is wasted by your bad habit.

    3. Examine your motive for indulging in your habit. For example, if your habit is drinking, look inside to see what it is you are trying to numb. Is it a bad relationship, or a painful childhood, or some type of emotional trauma? If you cannot identify the motive, you must seek professional guidance to get to the core of your habit and resolve it.

    4. Examine the effects of your habit. How is it hurting your health, your spouse, your family, or your relationships? Are you putting your job in jeopardy? Is your bad habit causing you to put off doing important things in your life? Is it affecting your ability to think clearly? Is it getting in the way of achieving your goals?

    Once you have taken an inventory of your negative habit, sit and process the following information.

  • Do I want to continue down the same path?
  • Am I willing to allow this habit to exert that much control over my life?
  • Arm I willing to let another day go by stranded in my delinquent habit?
  • Do I see a need for change in my life?

  • Changing Your Negative Habits

    Depending on the habit, you may need the help of a professional. Habits such as substance abuse, alcoholism, obesity, or gambling will require assistance. There are also many bad habits that you can change on your own. Whatever the habit, you must first make the decision for change. You must accept the fact that you have a problem habit and see the need for change.

    The key to breaking negative habits is to disrupt the brain's pattern of doing things. When engaged in a habit the brain becomes locked into a routine that allows the habit to become "second nature" so to speak. This disruption begins the mental preparation that is a necessary part of breaking your habit. You will be able to draw your motivation and determination to break the habit when the mind is set and ready for change. One the change occurs in the mind, the physical behavior follows.

    Most of us don't enjoy feeling controlled by anyone or anything. See your bad habits as a form of control and prepare yourself to take back control of your life. This will give you the self-discipline and self-control you need to stay clear of your bad habit.

    Here are some suggestions for kicking your bad habits:

  • Avoidance. Decide when, where, and with whom you engage in your habit and stay away. Stay away from the places that tempt you. Stay away from the people who enable your habit. Change your routine.
  • Replacement. Introduce something new and meaningful in your life to replace the bad habit. If you hung around at the bars after work, or sat and watched TV for hours, replace those activities by going to the gym instead.
  • Become emotionally strong. This will give you the strength you the confidence you need to fight.
  • Give of your time in service to others. Help out at the local food kitchen. Give of your talent with organizations such as habitat for humanity. Do the grocery shopping for the elderly. Read to sick children at the hospital.
  • Fill your spiritual need. This will give you the courage you need to remain strong.
  • Become a role model. Volunteer your time to help troubled teens in your community. Become a big brother or a big sister. Serve as a mentor. Use your personal experiences and stories to inspire change in others.

  • Neurofeedback. One way of overcoming substance abuse and alcoholism is through neurofeedback.
  • If you cannot do it alone, seek help. No one will make you feel bad for having a negative habit. As a matter of fact you will earn much more respect by others for taking control of your life, not to mention the self-respect it brings.


  • Good habits result from resisting temptation -Ancient Proverb

  • "Bad habits are like chains that are too light to feel until they are too heavy to carry." -Warren Buffet

  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle

  • "Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing." - Vincent T Lombardi

  • "It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them." - Benjamin Franklin

  • "A man who gives his children habits of industry provides for them better than by giving them a fortune." Richard Whately

  • "Something must die in order to grow - your old habits, your old self image, your old thinking, your old life... must be weeded out for the seeds of success to grow." - Doug Firebaugh

  • "We first make our habits, and then our habits make us." -John Dryden

  • "Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character." - Stephen Covey

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