8 Steps To Changing An Unhealthy Habit
You really want to quit smoking, you can feel the shortness of breath when you try to play with your children. Your Aunt died from lung cancer and you know you are at increased risk, because you smoke, of potentially being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer; yet, every time you try to quit smoking you falter because the stress gets to you and you reach for a cigarette to relax.
HABITS YOU DEVELOPED TO COPE WITH STRESS
You need to stop drinking so much alcohol; your Dad was an alcoholic and you saw how he abused your Mom and you promised you would never be like him. However, lately, you have been drinking more and more every day and you can’t seem to relax without a drink.
You don’t think you are an alcoholic because after all, you don’t abuse your wife like your father did. Then you went for your annual physical and your doctor told you your liver function tests (LFTs) were markedly elevated and he advised you to stop drinking. Now your desire to quit is stronger but your friends always want to meet at the pub for a drink after work and you think, “one drink won’t hurt”; besides, you will quit tomorrow, but tomorrow there is another excuse.
HABITS CAN CAUSE FINANCIAL RUIN
You need to stop gambling; you lost your home because you repeatedly used the mortgage money to gamble and you lost everything at the table. You are shacking up with a good friend and plan to save your money to rent your own apartment soon. You promise everyone you won’t gamble anymore, and you really want to stop gambling but deep down inside you keep thinking “one big score and I can buy another house and get out of debt and then I will quit.”
MEDICAL CONSEQUENCES OF EXCESS WEIGHT
Finally, you need to lose weight. You were recently diagnosed with hypertension and your doctor told you that you are also pre-diabetic. You promise to go on a diet and you really mean it because you don’t want to have any more medical problems; however, every day at work someone brings in donuts, bagels or some type of pastries and you find yourself sampling a few when no one is watching. You will go on that diet on Monday, but Monday never comes because you don’t really believe you can lose the weight.
1. Acknowledge that you have developed an unhealthy habit.
2. Understand why you turned to cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, food, or whatever your vice is in the first place (you needed something, and your unhealthy habit fills that need).
3. Know on the deepest level “your reason for wanting to change this unhealthy behavior.” That reason will keep you going during those difficult days. Why do you really want to change this habit? (Ask yourself, if you don’t change this habit, what will your life be like 1 year from today? It has to come from your heart).
4. Make a plan of action that involves realistic positive and healthier ways to get your needs met (eat a piece of fruit, go for a walk, talk to a friend, listen to music, meditate). Replace your unhealthy habit with a healthy/good habit.
5. Take that first step now and stop procrastinating (make the steps small enough that you don’t feel overwhelmed, but with each step you are moving in a new positive direction and a step closer to your goal).
6. Therapy and/or counseling may be required, which could be a friend, your pastor or a professional therapist.
7. Stay committed and pray for clarity and courage to make the necessary changes.
8. Be patient, change takes time and be kind to yourself (remember your WHY!). There will be good days and there will be some bad days; however, trust you will have the strength to overcome because you were not created to be in bondage.