We all have habits, ways of living that are very different from person to person. Habits make up the things you do in life, but what happens when habits turn into addictions? I’ve already written about habits and routine here.
Addictions are extreme habits. Something you know you can’t live without. Something you know you maybe do too much, but you still choose to do it.
Everything in moderation, so the saying goes. But how do you know when your habit had become an addiction? And if it’s becoming detrimental to your health or life, what can you do about it?
I asked my likers on Facebook if they had addictions. One said they’re addicted to me, (but its ok, she was only joking, either that or she’s due to be taken away in a strait jacket). Other addictions included: Tea, Facebook, iPhone, carbs, running and coffee. And I’m sure we can all relate.
So how do we get over it and make our addictions more healthy?
Here are my seven simple steps t overcoming your addictions and becoming a better person overall:
1) Acknowledge and understand the addiction
It may be hard for you to admit that you have a habit – whether it’s Facebook, excessive exercise or too much tea or coffee – you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. So you need to recognise your addiction, acknowledge it and see if it’s detrimental to your health or life.
Do you do it too much? And is it detrimental to your health or life? If you answer yes to either of these questions, perhaps it’s about time you made some changes to help you break your addiction?
2) Think rational thoughts instead of denial
If you’re in denial about it, if you’re minimising it or conning yourself about it, then you’ll never get where you need to be. If you can’t get through the day without 10 cups of tea or coffee, 2 runs, 3 mars bars or hours spent on Facebook, you might not be getting a balance in your diet or in your life as a whole.
You may be masking other problems like not getting enough sleep (by taking on way too much caffeine), or drinking or exercising away your anxiety, depression or pain. It may be a good idea to talk and count on others to help you think rationally about how you are being.
3) Use substation or alternative coping skills.
Substitute bad habits for better ones. People don’t break bad habits; they replace them with new ones. Recognise that you get a reward from drinking tea, coffee or eating mars bars and exercising too much. But also recognise that too much of anything is bad for you.
Addictions can calms you, take your anxiety away and lift your spirits. They can numbs you to the pain of your life. If you take your addiction away, and then don’t put anything in its place, then you’re just there stripped of your coping mechanisms and you’re going to go back to what you were doing before.
I’ve done it with a few things – going on drink benders with exercise and social fun on the run, diet coke for water, mars bars for greek yoghurt and berries or dark chocolate. You have the ability to change anything you choose to. Choose to reduce stress levels in your body in a healthier way than drinking alcohol or too much tea or whatever your addiction does for you now.
You don’t have to be strong and powerful all day long every day. You just need to recognise your danger zones, and do something incompatible with your addiction. Reduce the amount of your addiction steadily over time (especially when caffeine withdrawal is involved) and eventually replace it with something else – if you want to.
An example might be: You drink 10 cups of tea with 2 teaspoons of sugar in each: 20 teaspoons of sugar, at least 400 calories in sugar along (approx. one fifth of a woman’s daily recommended calorific intake), 400mg caffeine.
- Reduce the amount down to 7 cups per day (280 cals, 280 mg caffeine).
- Replace the teas you would have drunk with iced water or another healthy drink like green tea or milk.
- Then steadily reduce the number of cups of tea you drink in a day.
- You can still have them if you want to (max 4 cups a day), but be careful of the sugar you use, and if possible wean yourself off putting sugar in your tea (or use a non calorie sweetener alternative if you must).
- Try green tea and see if you like that as much – green tea is better for you than sugared tea.
When you look at it rationally – you don’t need to drink that much tea, and your body would be much better off with food and water to sustain you, than 10 cups of habitual sugary tea! The sugar along would probably keep you going, but it’s not a good or healthy energy source.
It’s about substituting some choices or habits for better ones and benefiting from those changes. See here for how to Improve a weekly diet
4) Identify your danger zones.
A danger zone can be a particular time of day or your reaction to a particular circumstance. There are times that you’re more prone to indulge in your habit than others. Recognise what those times are, and do something that is incompatible with the addiction you’re trying to break.
For example, if you have the urge to spend time on Facebook at 8am, which makes you late for work, take that time to focus on something else – like eating breakfast and getting ready. If you get through that two or three moments of impulse the urge will go away. Set yourself rules which you’ll stick to and times when you’ll do or consume whatever your addiction is.
5) Make lifestyle changes that last forever.
It’s not willpower, it’s programming. You have to set your life up for success if you’re going to break your addiction. If you’re trying to stop smoking or eating sweets, try simple things like not carrying money to buy cigarettes or cleaning your cupboards of mars bars or sweets.
You may have to set up rules for yourself, change the places you go to, what you do for fun and who you hang out with. If you are a Facebook junkie, and life and online activity is overwhelming you, then stay off Facebook for a week or so. Or delete the app from your phone. If you want to go back to it, set yourself strict times when you’ll go on Facebook. The best way to stop an addiction is to not have access to it.
Only allow yourself to get your Facebook fix from a particular computer at a particular time of the day or week. Think about how you ignore you partner when you’re on Facebook, or think about the improved social interactivity you could have if you just met your friends face to face instead of liking or commenting on their photos and status updates!
6) Be accountable and have a support system.
Being accountable to someone means that that person will not only support you, but will give you the kick in the ass that you need when it gets tough and tell you the truth when you’re kidding yourself. Get your family and friends involved in your efforts to kick the habit. You need to find a community that supports you during this time and embraces your decision to be healthier.
7) Reward yourself and relish becoming a better person.
Overcoming an addiction can be very difficult, but it can be done. When you see yourself making progress, even baby steps, you have to motivate yourself to keep going. Give yourself credit. Reward yourself for every step you make, starting with admitting that you have a problem and asking for help.
Recognising your addictions and making changes in your life are the first steps in improving who you are and what you do. Step by step you can become a better you, just follow the steps above. You’ll look back one day and wonder why it was ever an issue in the first place! 🙂
Finally, if it helps any – I’m addicted to running, exercise, Facebook and chocolate!