Many times I had to give up some habits. Some came back, others not. What is an effective way of quitting something? Giving up does not seem to be easy to me or any other person I know, is there something that can help?
From my own experience I found there are two things that work (and a hundred others that do not). Those are substitution and delay. These are two tactics I want to share in the hope they will help someone some day.
Why does it not work to “simply stop” doing something? Our mind does not make a difference between our body and our psychological state, the mind itself. So all our behaviors, all habits, they are a part of the larger “body” that includes both physical and psychological world. If we ask ourselves to stop doing something, for our subconscious it is the same as chopping off a part of the body, i.e. impossible. You cannot willingly give up a part of your body, why would you give up a part of your psychological “body”?
Enter substitution. We will not ask the subconscious to stop anything knowing well that it is impossible. What we will do is to propose something else instead. I do not know how and why it works but it does. Whenever you have a craving for a cigarette, make love or go for a run instead. Every single time, no exceptions. In a couple of days your habit will get substituted and you will not crave cigarettes anymore, you will crave sex or running. This is truly amazing but that is how it works. Just make sure you substitute something that you are willing to live with for the rest of your life. Hint: craving for food is really a bad habit to create, do not substitute anything with food, okay?
Another possibility is to tell yourself that you will do whatever it is you want but you will do it a little later. Tomorrow, for example. The subconscious does not really have a proper concept of time, it lives in the present, so it really does not matter when you say it will happen. I usually say to myself “tomorrow morning”. It helps enormously. You can move any craving to a slightly later period in life, like tomorrow or five minutes later. You will have to do it, but now you have a choice to smoke only one cigarette a day or have only a single meal a day. This works too. Try not to link “later” with other events in your life, like “when I am home” – subconscious can trace and remember those and coming home will trigger whatever it was you were postponing, so do it a few times and you will have a set habit.
Having habits is not wrong. The only problem is that they tend to take over the control of the life after a while and I do not like that. I want to control my life myself, consciously. So the fewer “automatic” habits I have – the better.