Bad habits are like acne. We all have them in some form, at some point in our lives. While most habits can come and go spontaneously, some stick with us for years and really screw things up for us. These habits can be as benign as biting our nails to as malignant as chain smoking.
We should be able to stop bad habits at will, and for the most part, we usually can. Bad habits are not addictions in the strict sense, but can certainly seem like them in some more extreme cases. They are simply learned routine behavior patterns that often go unnoticed.
What Are Habits?
Do you wake up and immediately walk to the bathroom and grab the toothbrush? Do you immediately go outside and grab a cigarette after being in a movie for two hours? Do you check Facebook at the first free chance you get?
These are habits, and are one of the most primal and simple forms of learning. They are relatively new behaviors that cross the threshold of thought and effort and become automatic, like riding a bike, or driving a car. These repeated patterns are written into the neural pathways of our brains, making them both difficult to start and stop.
How To Break Bad Habits Mindfully
Luckily for us, we have tools available to stop bad habits, which include will power and mindfulness meditation. Practicing these two things alone can go far in breaking bad habits, or starting new ones. Recognizing that we have habits that we want to break is often just as difficult as breaking them. Starting new habits is also difficult, but requires will power and effort to write the paths into our minds.
Mindfulness practice can allow us to see our bad habits. They are revealed to us when we learn to observe our thoughts. When our minds slow down and we see thoughts as they arise, we naturally see our habits. This gives us the awareness that habits exist and present us with the choice to either continue doing the things that we do, or to change course and work toward breaking them.
The Problems of the World Are Our Own Fault
We all have our demons. Some choose to be ignore them and even take pride in them, while others choose the long and difficult road of breaking their bad habits and changing themselves for the better. Of course, many of us go through entire lifetimes without seeing our negative habits. This is understandable given the “monkey mind” nature of our thoughts. Others know they have demons but identify with them too strongly, and thus, do nothing to improve themselves.
You know, smoking is cool, right? Hey, no one else uses their turn signals, so why should I? The list goes on and on. It is easy to form bad habits, and even easier to justify why we behave like jack-asses. It’s certainly feels better to blame and make excuses than to face the pain required to change ourselves. Our egos are strong and don’t like to be challenged. This is a sad state, and unfortunately, is one of the root problems in our world. We often look to blame others for the evil in the world, yet seldom look in ourselves.
When we make the effort to change ourselves for the better, we change the world for the better. The next time you think you can’t break bad habits, try mindfulness. Here’s a good place to start learning mindfulness.