We all know that forming new habits is difficult, and breaking bad ones is often even harder. We all have habits that we’d rather get rid of, but actually breaking a bad habit can be a challenge, and a lot easier said than done.
But we’re still not too far away from the beginning of the year so why not make a commitment to break one of your bad habits in 2019?
Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to begin. We’ve got some simple tips that can help you start to change any habit you’re aiming to get rid of. A recent article for Softonic delved into why exactly we have certain habits in the first place, as well as offering some practical steps as to how to break them.
According to the news provider, what makes something a habit is what’s known as the habit loop. This involves three stages: the cue, routine and reward. The cue is whatever prompts the behaviour you want to change. In the case of smoking, for instance, it could be boredom.
From here you move to the routine of having a cigarette. That might mean leaving your desk and going outside to light up. And finally you get the reward. In this example that’s not only in the form of the nicotine hit from the cigarette, but also in the form of time away from your desk.
To successfully break a bad habit you need to change what happens in this loop. Sounds simple, right? Often it’s anything but.
Let’s continue to use the example of smoking cigarettes. There are a few things you could do. Boredom is likely to remain your trigger, so you need to look at how you behave in the routine and reward parts of the loop.
One of the simplest ways to start would be to buy vape kits and swap out your tobacco cigarette for an e-cigarette. This means you’ll still be getting a break from your desk, and you’ll still have the physical act of smoking. This can even include a nicotine hit depending on the e-liquid you put in your vape.
If you want to take things a step further, the news website suggests going for a short walk when you’re up from your desk, to introduce a reward in the form of activity.
It’s important to bear in mind that making any long-term change to a habit like smoking takes time. In fact, the news provider stated that it typically takes at least 60 days for a new habit to start to feel natural.
That means you need to be prepared for those early weeks and months when doing something other than reaching for your packet of cigarettes might feel unnatural. Try not to give up, if you persevere you’ll come out the other side. You need willpower to help you at this stage. Just keep reminding yourself why you want to change this particular habit.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “I smoke but I don’t want to change and I don’t understand what’s so bad about smoking”, it might be worth reminding yourself of some of the facts about tobacco cigarettes.
There’s a good reason that the health warnings are plastered across the packets, but as a regular smoker it can be easy to ignore them.
We’re not here to lecture you, but it’s worth reading the information provided by the NHS about how smoking affects your body. Below are some of the main reasons you may want to give up cigarettes this year purely from a health perspective.
Firstly, one in every two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease. That’s a 50/50 chance of developing any number of conditions that will cut your life short.
Your lungs are one of the most obviously affected body parts, with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) two of the main conditions caused predominantly by smoking.
COPD actually covers a number of debilitating conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. 83 per cent of deaths from COPD in the UK are caused by smoking.
The risk of developing mouth and throat cancer is also greatly increased if you smoke. One thing that could encourage you to break your smoking habit though is the fact that you can significantly reduce your chances of developing head or neck cancer if you stop smoking.
In fact, the NHS points out that if you are smoke-free for 20 years, your risk of developing this form of cancer is the same as that of a non-smoker, so there is hope.
Both your heart and circulatory system are also adversely affected by smoking. When it comes to your circulatory system, it’s the poisons from the tar in cigarettes that does the damage. These poisons thicken the blood, which makes it more likely that you’ll suffer from blood clots. They also increase your heart rate, which means your body is working harder all the time.
Smoking also has the effect of narrowing your arteries, which means less oxygen-rich blood is able to flow around your body. This impacts all of your organs, as well as your overall health.
You’re at greater risk of a number of conditions if you smoke, including heart attack, heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. But as with the risk of throat and mouth cancer, if you stop smoking you can reduce these risks dramatically.
It’s widely accepted that the tar in cigarettes is among the most toxic elements of the product. This is why even switching to e-cigarettes can make a significant difference to your overall health. While continuing your nicotine addiction might not be ideal, it’s still less harmful for your body when it’s not combined with a hit of tar in every cigarette.
The NHS website goes into greater detail about how smoking affects you and what health risks it comes with. As well as the conditions we’ve mentioned above, traditional smoking also has an effect on your skin, brain, stomach and reproductive organs. It truly does impact the whole body.
Not surprisingly, the British Lung Foundation supports the NHS recommendations. The charity explains that there are over 5,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which 70 are known to cause cancer.
So, let’s return to our advice on how to break a bad habit. Hopefully better understanding the health implications of traditional smoking will help give you the willpower you need to stay the course in the early days and mean that you’re able to create that new habit loop.
As we’ve suggested, e-cigarettes can be a very useful tool in quitting traditional cigarettes, because they replace like for like but with a fraction of the health implications. What’s more, you can even wean yourself off the nicotine once you’ve got through the initial phase of quitting cigarettes.
That’s because you can buy e-liquids with different concentrations of nicotine in them, as well as some that are nicotine free. That means you can gradually reduce your intake of the drug until you’re able to cope without it.
By taking the advice from the Softonic article, and working to create a new habit loop that reinforces positive behaviour, you will find that you’re healthier and happier for making the change.
Always remember that breaking bad habits is hard and takes work on your part. Don’t be too tough on yourself if you struggle or have the odd lapse, it’s important to pick yourself up and get back on track rather than feeling as though you’ve ruined your efforts by smoking one cigarette when you were out, for instance.
Think about all the cues you have for your habit, and look for ways of dealing with them in different situations. If you find one you hadn’t initially thought of, add it to your list and just carry on.