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5 ways of breaking a bad habit

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My uncle has been to war. He has donned his uniform (drab coveralls), selected a weapon (a pint of black dye) and walked to the battlefield with his fellow soldiers (other people in the barber shop). These battle preparations my uncle religiously does are for his archenemy, his gray hair.

The thing about an ashen hair is that once it appears, it never goes away.

You can snip it, dye it, laser it (please don’t try this at home or any other place for that matter) or choose to go bald but that pesky gray hair that people say is a premonition for wealth, never really goes away. Still, this doesn’t mean you cannot suppress it. You can be slaying that ashen hair every time it raises a war flag.

We form habits through repetition. Once you do an activity over and over again it becomes a part of your norm. You find yourself accomplishing these tasks while on autopilot mode. Do you recall the first day of school? You were taken to the nursery by a relative or guardian. You tried to master the road but it was hard. After a while though, you assured your walk to school guide that you could find your way to the nursery without them. And you did, your brain didn’t even need your conscience to make decisions. The route to your preschool had been permanently imprinted in your head. You had successfully formed a habit.

There is a region in our brain known as the “reward” centre. In this particular area, there is a party thrown each time you do a gratifying activity. Every enjoyable ordeal that you undertake triggers the brain to release a chemical known as dopamine and every time this chemical is released, that particular ordeal is buffed, it’s like slowly feeding a baby basilisk. One day it will be big enough to eat you.

Ever wondered why you can’t stop eating junk, smoking a cigarette, chewing the lid of your pen or tugging at your hair? It’s because you are fighting against what a part of your brain loves. When you go for a long time without doing these bad habits, dopamine creates a gnawing need for them. Suddenly everything else becomes blurred as you focus on that bad habit. You find yourself on a porn site past midnight so as to satisfy your craving. Your bad habit becomes your Achilles heel, your own personalized kryptonite.

Quitting a bad habit is not easy. Statistics show that every year, almost 70% of smokers make a commitment to stop the art. Not even 20% go through with their commitment. We make a choice to halt these activities because they are not good for us. They affect our health, state of mind and how we interact with our surroundings. Whether the bad habit is clicking after you have been reprimanded or gambling; it takes a lot of energy to let go of these habits.

So how then do you fight with a part of your own brain? How do you go to war with dopamine?

Here are 5 methods you can employ so as to defeat your kryptonite;

Commit murder

Take a breathe, it’s a legal sort of murder. The first step to breaking a bad habit is visualizing your success. When battling to leave behind a said habit, there will be a voice in your head willing you to quit trying. It will be there constantly, putting you down, telling you you can’t do it. More often than not you’ll listen to that negative voice because it sounds just like you and that habit is pleasurable, it makes you feel good. Sure it’s not healthy but what is more important that self happiness? It’s not like eating one can of ice cream or sucking your pinky all the time will lead to an apocalypse right? Wrong.

Failing to stop a bad habit will lower your self esteem and ultimately your productivity. If your bad habit is procrastination you’ll find yourself with a brimmed to-do-list and with no time of competently accomplishing them. This gets you scorn from your peers, employers, family members and most of all yourself. You begin associating yourself with the word failure and before you know it you are failing at everything, including life itself.
So yes, it’s time. Get your shot gun and put a bullet through that negative voice in your head, metaphorically speaking of course.

Start cultivating a new voice, a new vision. See yourself eating vegetables in a buffet. Visualize completing an issued task on the very day it is required. Let that positive voice lead you into flicking your fingers instead of ripping your hair off when you are frustrated. Stand in front of a mirror and picture a fit toned body.

Visualize success.

Avoid triggers

One of the major factors that will contribute to you succeeding in cutting ties with your bad habit is having extensive knowledge about it. You need to know what activates your bad habit. Does your environment play a role in triggering your habit or maybe the people you associate yourself with nudge you towards it’s direction? Or perhaps your bad habit is summoned by your moods.

After knowing what triggers your habit, try everything you possibly can to avoid them. Let’s say you associate gambling with having cash at hand. Invent a system where you hardly ever have money on you. Get a trustee friend involved, let them keep your money for you. Devise a method that will be so crude for you to withdraw your money. After a while, your mind will get accustomed to feeling tired every time you think of getting cash at hand. Gradually, gambling will be associated with exhaustion. You will end up quitting.

Maybe the activation sesame is a chipo base. Change your route. Stop telling yourself that you have to conquer your problems head on, chances are you’ll end up stuffing fries down your throat after committing to a junk sabbatical. Do your best to avoid temptations.

Know your triggers and conjure up means to keep away from them.

Pick an alternative

One of the questions Economic students come across in a class set up is whether, in a loan situation, to get repaid in a week with no interest or to get repaid in a year with interest. Most students pick the former, even with the possibility of more money at play.

Of course there are many factors that affect this choice like the immediate needs of the loaner or maybe the economic situation in a year or simply unexpected future happenings, like COVID-19 for example. All in all, there is that satisfaction in short term gratifications. It is easier to see results immediately than to wait for a longer period of time even if the benefits are worthwhile.

So yes, it is easier to answer to a bad habit which will give you instant pleasure than to give a good habit a chance since this usually takes a longer time and more energy. Isn’t it easier to take a sip of alcohol than spending months in rehab? Doesn’t it take less energy to procrastinate than to accomplish a given task? Yes and yes, but all you will be doing is feeding the dopamine, the basilisk. Before you know it, it will eat you alive. Soon you will start gaining weight, getting into brawls with your peers, becoming a hospital regular or getting depressed.

The thing is, you cannot erase a bad habit. It is there, in your mind, with permanent residence due to the incessant indulgence in it. So how then do you break away from it? Get a substitution.

Sure an alternative won’t make the bad habit vanish in thin air but it will counteract it. You see now you are no longer chained to one option, you have another.

You are in class, your mind is wandering ready to escape to a realm of sweet slumber. On such occasions you usually retrieve a pen lid and chomp it so as to stay alert. It’s not a healthy habit, you don’t like it because it makes you look silly in front of your peers and the chemicals tucked in that lid are not good for your health. You want to quit but you have become dependent on the action to keep you awake in class. Come up with an alternative. Cultivate a habit of jolting down short hand notes when the teacher is in class. Remember to avoid tempting situations so keep the lids away from you or have someone smack you across the head if you attempt chewing on it.

People have been employing different substitutes so as to fight their urges. We have alcoholics who have turned towards exercising. Junk eaters who have come up with vegetable recipes that are delectable.
Some of our bad habits come alive when we are idle. Make sure you have a stringent schedule being overseen by another party, that way you are accountable.

If you are having difficulties finding substitutes, ask the people around you for assistance. They will provide succor.

Get back up

Human beings are social creatures. Even introverts seek out friends. Breaking a bad habit needs reinforcements, one of them is the people around you.

Birds of the same feather flock together is a saying that never sloughs. There is a reason why group therapies are more often than not successful. Surrounding yourself with people who want the same thing you want or will at least help you achieve what you desire will go a long way in breaking your bad habit.

Motivation is an important factor in this exercise. If you keep hanging out with people who don’t acknowledge your efforts then you’ll find yourself lacking drive. Sure you are supposed to will yourself out of a bad habit since it is majorly affecting you but you tend to note a difference between people who have support and people who lack it.

Think of yourself as a tennis player. You are talented and limber, the game is your fort. But not all matches are easy. Sometimes you have pain on your shoulders so you wind up sabotaging a serve or maybe your opponent is faster, better. You need a coach. Someone to motivate you during a bad game, someone to flick your forehead and yell at you when you miss practice, someone to train with you, someone to help you kick ass in the tournament field.

Where possible, find someone gearing for the same war. Trudge the battlefield together prepared to lift each other up. That way, each time you are about to lapse, you remember you are not alone in your fight.

Learn to take baby steps

Rome was not built in a day, heck your own home wasn’t completed in a week. Breaking a bad habit takes time, stop running before you can bend on fours.

There are a lot of times when you will relapse and visit that porn site or go on a spending thrift or become a kleptomaniac again, learn to forgive yourself. A lot of people give up trying to break a bad habit because they have failed constantly at the exercise. They are tired, frustrated, hopeless.

Stop spending a lot of energy and time beating yourself up over your defeats, focus all that on your next battle. Okay so you caved and ate junk food for a week, you had a relapse, go back to the drawing board. Analyze the triggers, what initiated the need to gratify the bad habit? Get your entourage involved, restructure your food diary, get alternatives.

We are human beings, we make mistakes, forgive yourself and redraft.

Remember, you drown not by falling into a river but by staying submerged in it. In other words, failing at something doesn’t mean you have to stop trying. Resurface and keep lurching forward. You only reach your low when you stop fighting to breathe for air.

These steps are effective in attempting to bid sayonara to your bad habits.
Some funded researches like the NIH are exploring areas like genetics and what role they play in forming and suppressing habits. There are also medications that are rumored to lull bad habits so that it is easier to adopt good ones.

As you begin your journey to war, keep those 5 factors in mind.
So gray hair and wealth, any actual relations there?


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