Breaking Bad (Habits) and building a better life.

Break those bad habits for good and start living your best life.

Employing mindfulness and circuit breakers is a great way to become unstuck from the mindless retreat towards the comfort of bad habits and addiction.

There are four stages to habits, good or bad.

1) Trigger,
2) Behaviour,
3) Reward,
4) Repeat.

The human brain has evolved over time to protect us from danger. Of course, there is the protection from the obvious, being eaten by a predator, being hurt by an aggressor or falling off a cliff, but what about the less obvious?
The danger of feeling sad, embarrassed, awkward, uncomfortable or even rejected. These are all negative feelings that can reinforce habit forming behaviours.

Let’s take a look at some bad habits. — eating junk food & smoking.

Obesity and smoking are two main contributors to human morbidity.

Eating junk food or sweets for example.

Curious analysis —
We see a piece of cake (trigger), we eat cake (behaviour) and we feel good (reward).
It all seems fairly harmless, right?
Well then our wonderfully creative mind steps in and goes
“AHA, maybe I can do this the next time I feel bad!” and so we repeat the behaviour. Now we have new triggers — Sadness, Loneliness and so on.

Smoking is another bad habit.

We all know how it usually begins. The teenager sees the cool kids smoking and thinks “I want to be cool”. It’s no coincidence that the Marlboro man wasn’t socially awkward.

Curious analysis —
We see the cool kids smoking (trigger), We smoke to be cool (behaviour), We feel cool (reward) and so we repeat the process until it’s no longer about being cool and has simply become a bad habit with a side order of addiction.

So what can we do to break these bad habits?

Circuit breakers, are a great way to get started. They can be a process as simple as consciously stopping and redirecting yourself as you go to repeat a bad habit. For example, going for a short walk instead of smoking a cigarette, or having a glass of water instead of another piece of cake.
Other more significant circuit breakers might be, moving house, the new year, a birthday or beginning a new job.
New circumstances bring with them the feeling of anything is possible, which is great mindset to attach to.

What circuit breakers can you think of to interrupt the cycle of bad habits?

Another method of habit breaking, which will work very well alongside one or more circuit breakers, is mindfulness.
Now I’m not talking about lighting candles and tying yourself into a pretzel on a yoga mat.
Approaching bad habits with mindfulness is simply about being inquisitive. To be curious of exactly what is going on when we perform these harmful rituals.
For example, if you are a smoker, light a cigarette, yes I said that, as mindfulness is not about running away from what is bad but moving towards it with genuine curiosity. So, light a cigarette and pay attention to every detail of what you are doing. What does it taste like, what does it smell like, do your lungs feel congested?

“Smells like stinky cheese, and tastes like chemicals, YUCK!” – (Mindfulness smoking participant,
A simple way to break a bad habit, Judson Brewer, TED).

Let it go.

Once we start to see the results of our actions we can then begin to let go of bad habits using circuit breakers and create good habits in their place.
Then, once we are consciously redirecting our behaviours, we are hit with cravings. So, we then aim our curiosity towards the cravings only to notice that they are simply physical and mental sensations — restlessness, tension, anxiousness or uneasiness, and that they come and go with time.
A nicotine craving can last anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes and normally decrease in intensity over time, but can be heightened if triggered.
By focusing on our cravings instead of running from them, we are able to manage them as bite-sized moments in time with the realisation that they will eventually subside.

Breaking bad habits is never easy.
It takes determination along with a desire to want a better life for yourself.
I should know, I smoked for over thirty years and after quitting around 15 months ago, not a day goes by that I don’t have a craving or two.
Ultimately, the life of a smoker is not the life I want for myself, nor do I want to expose the people around me to it.
No matter what inner demon you are facing, you can overcome it. Just make the decision that you deserve better and then become curious about the intricacies.

Be kind to yourself, you deserve it.

“Those who overcome addictions may be the strongest people on the planet.”

— D.W.