If quitting bad habits were easy, there wouldn’t be AA, NA, Nicorette Gum, Nicoderm patches, or the countless self-help books and podcasts giving advice on how to become a healthier, happier you.
Not every bad habit is a substance or addiction. Perhaps you’re trying to quit having belligerent outrages whenever you’re angry. Or maybe you want to build your self esteem and stop being a doormat.
You might be in search of better mental health and want less panic attacks, shorter bouts of depression, or better focus.
Whatever it is you want to cut out of your life, the prospect of eliminating something we already feel we don’t have control over is daunting. And, trying to quit a bad behavior so ingrained in us that it’s automatic will set us up for failure. It’s why people are in and out of rehab. Why smokers “quit” at the end of each pack before buckling and buying another. Why depression and anxiety feel like something that takes over our bodies. Why we feel victim to anything keeping us from feeling whole.
Rather than focusing on cutting the unhealthy habits out, though, we can emphasize adding in healthy ones.
If your overall goal is to live a healthier more whole life, add in one healthy habit a week or a month. For example, start by adding in exercise. Then, add in one healthy meal a day. Next, add in an earlier bedtime. You can add in therapy, meditation, yoga and journaling, choosing to do so at your own pace. Add one at a time rather than trying to overhaul your life overnight. Pick one habit you want to change and make adding in a healthier alternative the priority.
Most importantly, add in forgiveness. Forgive yourself on the days you don’t succeed. Forgive yourself the times you fall back on your bad habits. Don’t let it stop you from trying again tomorrow. Don’t believe yourself a lost cause. Every day is a new beginning. Every new beginning is a new chance. Every new chance is a step towards success. And it’s a lot easier to be successful at adding in a new habit than trying to nix an old one. So start there and see where the road takes you. You may discover something healthy you crave even more than the unhealthy habit you wanted to replace.