How To: Break Bad Habits

Everyone has bad habits.

It may be something as simple as scratching our head when we are nervous.

Or something more serious such as smoking or lying.

Most habits are formed just through the process of repetition.  First you think that you need a smoke, you light a cigarette, and then you start inhaling and exhaling.

After enough times, you stop thinking about it.  You’re out in the open.  You automatically reach in your pockets and couple of minutes later you’re starting your second cigarette.

Many people have tried to quite smoking, but usually fail.  My dad is one of them.  I believe quitting cold, never really is the solution.

You stop, but you’re always thinking about it and eventually you crave in and smoke again.  Sometimes you smoke even more just satisfy the vacuum that was created when you stopped smoking for so long.

Because you tried to quit, you actually over-compensate when you start smoking and now instead of 1 pack per day, you do 2 packs every day.

I never really knew what the best way to break a habit was until I read this book “You Are What You Think” by Doug Hooper.

In this book he describes breaking a bad habit into a two-step process:

  1. Try to stop or cut down whatever you wish to stop.
  2. A vacuum is bound to occur when you cut back or stop, and this vacuum must be filled.  It is best if steps are taken in anticipation of this before the habit-breaking attempt is made.  If a substitute is not found, the vacuum will be filled by the very habit you have given up.

Everyone does step #1, but no one knows about step #2.  Or if they do, they can’t follow through.

What step #2 suggests is that instead of just stop smoking and hide in your room, going through withdrawals and constant thoughts of smoking.  Why not encourage yourself to start something new like running?

The new habit of running should be started even before you start to quit smoking, so it’s something that you can rely on.  The thought of running will come easily to you and you won’t resist it.

So when you do quit smoking, instead of locking yourself up in a room and trying to fight off your inner demons.  You are filling that vacuum inside of you with something healthy.

So now instead of spending 30 mins of your day smoking, you are spending that 30 mins exercising.  But this will only work if you have established a habit of running beforehand.

This whole habit breaking process of Doug Hooper reminds me of a Bible passage dealing with demons:

From Matthew 12: 43-45 “The Return of the Unclean Spirit.

  • “When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none.
  • Then it says, ‘I will return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order.
  • Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation.”

The way I interpret this Bible passage is that the unclean spirit is really our bad habits and addictions.

When we try to get rid of the unclean spirit, it leaves us but always comes back.  If we have nothing else to replace it with, it will come into our lives again.

The fact that it brings  more evil spirits itself just symbolizes that after quitting an addiction or bad habit, when we relapse into the bad habit again.  We’re more likely to smoke even more, to make up for our withdrawals.

More evil spirits just means our habits get worse then when it was when we initially tried to quit.


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