How to Give Up Bad Habits

How to Give Up Bad Habits

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

How to Give Up Bad Habits

Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.

~Spanish Proverb

Throughout my life I’ve given up many bad habits. Most recently I got off coffee. Letting go of coffee was not easy. In fact, strange as it may sound, it was even harder than when I got sober eight years ago and gave up drugs and alcohol. Caffeine was my last drug, and because it wasn’t killing me I continued to give myself permission to drink it.

One of the main reasons we stay stuck in habits we know don’t serve us is because of our permission-giving thoughts, such as One cup of coffee a day won’t kill me. Or, I only drink on weekends. These thoughts keep us convinced that there is nothing wrong with our behavior even though deep down we know it isn’t right.

In many cases we use our bad habits to avoid dealing with something much more difficult. In my case, I was using coffee as a final vice. As a sober woman I felt I deserved to have something I could turn to when I felt I needed a jolt. This habit seemed harmless, but when I got honest with myself it became clear that I was just using the coffee as another drug. Upon genuinely reviewing my behavior I came to realize that I had to stop giving myself permission to drink coffee and that it was time to change the habit.

Transitioning out of a bad habit can be really uncomfortable at first. To help you ease into the process, I’ve outlined the three steps that worked for me when I put down the coffee.

Step One: Keep it in the day

One of the main reasons we get tripped up when we try to change a habit is that we start future tripping. For instance, when I was first letting go of coffee I’d project onto the future with thoughts such as, What will I do when I’m in Europe and I want a cappuccino? What helped me most during these future flip-outs was to simply keep it in the day. I would tell myself, I don’t need to worry about tomorrow. Today I choose not to drink coffee. One day at a time I’ve stayed committed.

Step Two: Change your breath pattern

The moment we change our breath pattern we change our energy, thereby changing our experience. Whenever you notice yourself about to relapse into your negative behavior, take a long, deep breath. As you change your breath you change your energy. Your calm and centered energy will support you in positive behavior and stop you from indulging in your bad habit.

Step Three: Make it joyful

Letting go of a negative habit doesn’t have to be torturous. In fact, it can be joyful. To really create change we need more than just willpower: We must find the joy and curiosity in it. Letting go of a bad habit is really just creating a new habit. In that new habit you can find happiness. In my case, I chose not to dwell on the loss of coffee and instead I fell in love with organic tea and have become a tea connoisseur. When you find joy in creating a new habit you can effortlessly let go of the bad one.

If you’re ready to let go of that nasty vice, use these three steps. Keep it in the day, breathe through the transition and find joy in creating new habits.

~Gabrielle Bernstein

More stories from our partners