Yes You Can: Break a Bad Habit Forever
Most people have a bad habit that they’ve ingrained in their brain. It’s unhealthy, but it’s also difficult to break the cycle. A lot of the problem is psychological, though in some cases, it’s physical. Here’s how to break some of the most common habits people have without going insane.
Overeating is a common problem. It’s also one of the contributing factors to obesity. If you overeat, and you’re not getting enough exercise, you have compromised immunity or your gut ecology is unbalanced, and you’ve got any other genetic predisposition to gaining weight, you’re putting yourself at risk for a whole host of health problems both now and in the future.
Overeating is a tough habit to break, because food reward is high today. Most manufacturers want to sell more of their stuff, so they pack it with lots of salt, sugar, and MSG - all very addictive substances.
To break this habit, you might find it best to either taper off the junk food (which is likely contributing significantly to your problem), or replacing it with other foods that are more natural and healthy.
For example, if you are used to eating at a fast food restaurant 5 days a week, try skipping 3 of those days, and replacing the fast food with lots of fruit and veggies. You can even skip the veggies and eat something like fish. Whole foods tend to be very satiating, so you’ll find your calorie consumption dropping, especially if you don’t add extra salt, sugar, or anything else that’s hyper-palatable.
At first, you’ll notice that the “whole food” is a little dull and not as flavorful as a “Big Mac.” But, this is because the Big Mac is loaded with flavor enhancers and complex flavors to begin with. Plain food, even a plain sweet potato, will eventually start to taste sweet to you.
Alcohol is one of the oldest vices in the world. It still afflicts millions of people worldwide. Even if you’re not an alcoholic, you might be drinking too much. If it’s become a weekend habit, you might be interested in trying different methods to curb your appetite.
If you’re truly not addicted, some cognitive therapy, or quitting “cold turkey,” might be the best approach - at least until the habit is totally broken. Then, you can reintroduce it again and form healthier habits.
Excessive T.V. Watching
T.V. is a dangerous addiction. It robs people of their time, but it also contributes to an unhealthy attitude towards life. Instead of being active, you’re plopping on the couch and zoning out for hours on end. Breaking this habit is often best done “cold turkey.” However, replacement strategies can be used if the addiction is weak.
Smoking often involves a two-pronged approach - “cold turkey” for the first few days to eliminate the initial physical addiction and then alternative strategies that involve breaking the associations with smoking. For example, if you usually smoke first thing in the morning, or after you eat lunch, you’ll want to replace that activity with something else.
Steve Tucker has done extensive research on the psychology of habitual behavior. Whether one is interested in starting new healthy habits or breaking common unhealthy ones, he often blogs about the strategies for taking control of one's behavior.