”Breaking bad habits” brought to you by the person who enjoyed eating meat, shrimps, and dairy for her whole life – stopped 2 and a half years ago. Someone who smoked for the past 6 – 7 years – quit 7 months ago. A person who ate bread on a daily basis for her whole life – stopped 2 years ago. A person who used to think what’s good for her is good for everyone else – doesn’t think that anymore.
All the above is the same person. All coming from my own experience in breaking bad habits (except the last one on the list).
1. Why do you want to start breaking bad habits?
I tried going vegetarian 2 or 3 times before I went vegan, and the reason was simply to try it out. I was always attracted to the idea of not eating meat, but I enjoyed eating chicken too much, I guess. So it never lasted. Once when I was watching Food, Inc. I actually started crying when I saw a guy turning a living hen upside down and breaking her bones using some machine… I immediately decided to stop eating chicken for the rest of my life. Two days later in a college cafeteria, I ordered chicken and fries thinking to myself ”I could stop eating chicken, but me going vegetarian wouldn’t make any difference in the whole world. So what’s the point…”
And about a year later I watched Gary Yourofsky‘s speech on veganism and realized what I am contributing to when I buy animal products. I realized what I was supporting my whole life and why, and I stopped doing that. I didn’t care about how am I going to change the world, but I could at least change myself.
And that’s one way of breaking a bad habit, having a strong reason as to why you want to stop doing something. Write down the intention you have and see how it aligns with your values. Knowing why you do something will give it a whole new perspective and keep you going forward with the intention you’ve set out to yourself.
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I never wanted to stop smoking. I mean, why would I? My health was always great, I enjoyed having a few cigarettes while drinking coffee with my friends and lighting up a cigarette while you’re waiting for a bus actually seems like you’re doing something instead of just standing there and waiting… I could never have a coffee without a cigarette. Especially black Turkish coffee which is very popular where I live and is very strong (of course, depends on how you make it) and you just need to feel the smoke in your throat while you’re drinking it.
So when I stopped pursuing the idea of college I didn’t have to have any sleepless nights spent in various attempts to look at a book I wasn’t quite interested in, and somehow I switched to tea. And you just don’t need a cigarette while drinking tea. Then I started going out less frequently and essentially just started removing all the things that would make me want to smoke. And finally at the end of October last year I was out with my friends, smoked a whole pack of cigarettes (I would always smoke a cigarette after a cigarette), in a way forced myself to smoke because it was a habit – holding some alcoholic beverage in one hand and a cigarette in another, that’s why we have two hands, right? But when I came home I just felt something like a pressure in my throat and threw away a pack with remaining 2 cigarettes in it, deciding that I’m not going to force myself to anything if my body is obviously rejecting it.
To conclude, sometimes it’s not the habit that you should focus on. It’s what strikes the habit. Think about what makes you do something you’d like to get rid of and start focusing on those triggers. Sometimes it’s probably easier to take small steps rather than go cold turkey, so experiment with breaking bad habits and see what works for you.
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I think it was Tony Robbins who recently tweeted: ”In life, you either need desperation or inspiration”, so for the 3rd way of breaking bad habits, I’ll point out desperation. I’ll go with a ”bread” situation mentioned at the start for this one. It’s a good example as any. Fortunately, I’m one of those people that can eat lots of food and it just doesn’t show. I had a period in my life when I was ordering pizzas daily (the perks of being a student in a different city, am I right?) But having sandwiches daily was a way longer period. And even if I would have a proper meal, I would still add heaps of bread on the side.
Bread was in a way a base of every meal. As a student buying my own food I realized that I was buying a huge loaf of bread almost every day and I started feeling bloated and just decided to stop buying bread because it was going to the extremes. I also had a big ”why” behind it, I mean, think about it – what is bread? The ingredients are always: flour, E-5896548, sugar, oil, artificial this, artificial that… I mean, do you really need it? Of course, there are a lot of healthier options, but seeing how often we buy it nowadays, I’m sure the majority of us buys the cheapest most artificial option.
So yes, sometimes we just need to ask ourselves: ”What am I doing? Where am I going with this?” to realize that it’s time to change direction. Sometimes we need to question our behavior to become aware of what’s not working. And that’s a good thing, to turn off the auto-pilot of our life and start thinking.
To continue the quote from the previous step, sometimes you just have to wait until something in you changes. As I mentioned at the beginning, I used to think what’s right for me should be right for everyone else. It came to the point a few years ago when in the middle of a fight my boyfriend at a time asked me: ”Was there ever a time when you were wrong?” And to calm the tension it was probably the only time in my life when I decided to let go of my ego’s need to be right and chose to let that one go unanswered.
When I’m talking about breaking bad habits, I don’t necessarily mean solely breaking a habit of smoking. Or sleeping late, binging on Netflix/whatever you’re struggling with. I mean letting go of anything that is not serving you. I had a habit of judging everyone who was aware of the meat industry and the agony the animals are going through to ultimately be called ”food”. But I realized that we’re not on the same journey. Let’s imagine our lives as a book – we’re not all on the same chapter. We live and we learn. We grow. If we’re going in the right direction, we outgrow our old selves and we gain new perspectives. So there will come a time when you’ll be inspired to change, to start breaking bad habits and embrace the new attitude.
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5. Act ”as if” – brought by Jen Sincero
You probably know by now I’m a huge fan of acting as if, but when it comes to breaking bad habits and acting as if, Jen Sincero in her book You are a badass is talking also about how in order to go from a smoker to non-smoker you should act like one. A non-smoker doesn’t buy cigarettes, doesn’t add a price of a pack of cigarettes in a budget etc. It goes with every habit, start acting like you are who you want to be. Simple as that. Probably we should also get rid of the habit of over-complicating things… But that’s maybe in the next chapter…
Bonus tip for breaking bad habits*
Don’t force this process. And once you get rid of a bad habit, don’t force it on others.
For instance, once you get rid of your smoking habit, you’ll maybe have the urge to go around and suggest to others how they could give up smoking as well. I’d say skip that part. You may have a good intention in your mind, but no one is going to change because you tell them to. You can only decide on your own life. Try to make a process of breaking bad habits enjoyable (otherwise it won’t work). And make sure you’re always feeling good, no matter what you do and at what chapter you are on.
Check out my ”100 Steps Closer” eBook filled with motivational quotes, affirmations, journal prompts and action steps to get you 100 steps closer to the life you want.
Have an amazing day,