Bad habits are easily developed by children and adults but time and devotion to the three steps of changing bad habits can help change a bad habit.
In the book ‘The Power of Habit; Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’, published on February 28, 2012, Charles Duhigg taught that “change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort; almost any habit can be reshaped.”
I find this to be true in my own life as I have over time tried to change bad habits that I had unconsciously picked up from things I watched. When I was little I would watch Korean action movies all day and when I was out with friends, I would want to practice some fighting moves that I found fascinating and that got me into a whole lot of trouble with my friends. Overtime I reduced the hours I spent on television and started to have meaningful conversations and that helped strengthen my relationship with friends.
The first step one could take to changing bad habits is to identify the cue. That is, what makes the habit come into play. Cues are known to be triggers that tell your brain to act in ways that cause the behaviour to unfold. Consider the habit of excessive drinking. You would have thought of ways to quit drinking and mapped out your to-do lists so you could be a responsible person or parent. You may have even placed an indication of those to-do-lists by your bedside so you could behave accordingly.
Yet, you find yourself constantly fighting against the habit of drinking. How then are you going to stop the habit of drinking excessively? First is to identify the trigger for the behaviour. A possible variable factor for excessive drinking maybe deeper psychological or emotional issue.
The second step is routine. Routine is the behaviour itself, the action you take. That is, a person with a deeper psychological or emotional issue is likely to fall into the habit of excessive drinking. In one of Brigham Young University of Utah students’ resource material titled: ‘Goals and Habit’, it was stated that “for you to successfully change an habit you need to understand the relationship between the reward and the routine” (in this case excessive drinking).
It also stated that “through experimentation, you can try using different rewards to isolate your craving. When you identify the reward and it’s routine, you can change the habit by establishing a different routine.” For instance, joining a relief society (group therapy) or setting up an appointment with a psychologist.
The material taught that “the activity itself is not important – you are just experimenting with rewards to identify your cravings.” If you were craving for socialisation with people of common experience, then group therapy would help and if you were only looking to talk to somebody that could set your mind straight, then visiting a psychologist would help, as they both help in stress assistance.
The last step is reward which is the satisfaction you get after exhibiting the habit. A person with a trigger of psychological or emotional issue and a routine of drinking excessively alone, the possible outcome for the behaviour is to gain relief over the mental stress, that is, by falling asleep after drinking. The reward, therefore, helps the brain to remember if this outcome is worth remembering and doing all over again.
Finally, bad habits are difficult to overcome as they could be energy draining and require discipline every step of the way.
It is advised that you make a plan and stick to it, with time and devotion to these three steps you could successfully change whatever undesirable habit in the future.
Chukwuemeka is an Intern with LEADERSHIP.