The Benefit We Get From Bad Habits: Why Your New Habits Aren’t Sticking
At first, this might seem like an oxymoron, but you will soon see that understanding the benefits you get for your bad habits will be extremely valuable. The first misconception that we have is that we believe our bad habits are only negative to our lives. This misunderstanding prevents us from being able to replace the not-so-desirable habits for ones that are more preferable and healthy.
The habitual actions that we take are either adding to our lives positively or taking away from them negatively. Pretend each action that you take has positive or negative numerical values associated with all of its consequences.
Example: Going to the gym
-1 = Takes about 1 hour
-1 = Strenuous Activity Required
-1 = Will be sore tomorrow
+1 = Bigger muscles
+1 = Increased physical ability
+1 = Meet new people
+1 = Stress relief
+1 = Faster metabolism
+2 = More oxygen to Brain
+2 = Healthier Heart
Total = +5
(I could have him on and on with the +’s)
Some habits are more positive than negative. Some are neutral. Others are more negative than positive. Those are the unhealthy habits that we have. The ability to recognize all the negative consequences that come with our unhealthy habits is crucial in identifying them. We must identify our unhealthy habits, so we can change them and better our lives and putting us further into the + range.
Negative Habit Example: Eating Fast Food
+1 = Taste Great
+1 = Fast/ Saves Time
+1 = Convenient/ Less Work
-1 = Clogs Arteries
-1 = Less Energy
-1 = Increase Body Fat
-2 = Increases Visceral Fat
-2 = Carcinogenic
-2 = Contributes to Heart Disease
Total = -6
(Toxic/ Negative Habit)
As you can see, there are some benefits that come with our bad habits. Become skilled at recognizing these as they are vitally important while creating new and healthier habits as you will see.
Triggers and Reactions
The first step in becoming more self-aware of our habits is realizing our external triggers and emotional reactions to them. When something happens that causes us to adopt a different emotional state, take note. What specifically happened that was the trigger? What specific aspect of what happened is what made it a trigger for you at all? After that, start to become aware of how you feel now. Did this trigger make you feel good or bad? How long does this emotional state usually last? How often do you feel yourself in this emotional state?
After we begin to understand our internal, subconscious reactions to external triggers, we can begin to analyze our habitual responses to those emotional states.
Next, we must become aware of our response after being triggered into any given emotional state. The response is what we actually do as a result of the emotional state— our actions. Know that the response is a result of our emotional state/reaction— not the trigger directly. There may be many triggers that cause us to have the same reaction and therefore, the same response.
Let’s say that every time you become anxious, you go outside and smoke a cigarette. Most would consider smoking cigarettes a nasty habit that almost anyone wants to quit but can’t.
Traditional Replacement Method
The traditional replacement method for creating new habits simply doesn’t work. You are supposed to get rid of a negative habit that you have and replace it with a completely positive one. The problem is that people don’t pay any mind it to the habit that is replacing it, as long as it is a healthy positive habit. In addition, they don’t fully examine the unhealthy, negative habit for what it truly is. We only see the unhealthy habit as “bad".
If we do not pay any mind to what benefits the unhealthy habit gives to us, then we cannot properly pick a new habit to replace it. This is because the new habit has to have similar benefits that the unhealthy habit has.
Some healthy habits might even be somewhat of a detriment in relation to the old negative habit. I remember how even positive habits have some negative outcomes?
Let’s say that you smoke cigarettes because of the anxieties that you might have. Let’s also say that going to the gym gives you a little social anxiety, showing off your body, as well. Going to the gym would not be a good replacement for smoking cigarettes as the anxiety that cigarettes get rid of is amplified at the gym.
Once we are fully able to understand the spectrum of positive and negative outcomes for both positive and negative actions/habits, we are prepared to find a replacement habit.
Finding a Replacement
Well, what are the positive benefits that come with smoking cigarettes? Immediate relief and pleasant sensation. In order to find a healthier habit to replace the smoking cigarettes, you must find a new action that has similar if not the same positive benefits to smoking cigarettes. You can’t just start chewing gum to replace the habit if gum doesn’t already give you a sense of relief. You must ask yourself these questions: What can I do that will give me the healthiest and fastest relief possible? What other healthier habit can I adopt that gives me a very pleasant sensation?
Even though the healthier habits may not have the exact positive benefits, you would be surprised at how much easier it becomes to quit unhealthy habits for healthier ones with similar positives.