The power of habit

Habit

“A habit (or wont) is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.”

Every morning we wake up, get up, get dressed, brush our teeth and have our breakfast. All this happens without you even having to think about it. You don’t think “Ok, now I need to put this toothbrush into my mouth, slide right, now slide left, now move it to the right again, to the left, right, left.” This happens automatically. This is the power of habit.

Yesterday evening, I came home after work, changed into my running gear and went out for a walk/run. Before I fully realized what was happening, I was already on the road getting my workout. Even 6 weeks ago, this wouldn’t have been the case. And now, it’s  easy…

Most of the time we don’t think of what we are doing. It is all the matter of habit. Habit in a very big part forms our life and the way we live it. We create some habits without even realizing. Like getting dressed every morning, brushing teeth, having a shower, putting on make up, getting shopping done on a certain day, putting dishes into the dishwasher after we had our dinner, petting your cat goodnight. There are also bad habits that form our life the same way good/normal habits do. Pressing the snooze button 5 times before you actually get up, leaving your bed without making it tidy in the morning, leaving house without having breakfast (probably because you are too late, cause you’ve snoozed your alarm five times), light up cigarette when you have your morning coffee, have crisps for lunch, bite your nails while driving the car, pour a glass of wine when you get ready to watch Netflix in the evening, throw dirty clothes beside the laundry basket and not into it. The list is endless.

Good and bad habits have the same huge impact on our life. By creating more good habits and getting rid of bad habits we increase our well-being. And once you get rid of just one bad habit you will see the knock on effect that will follow.

I know it’s true. It happened to me.

I was a smoker. Started when I was only 17 and smoked every day after that till I was 30. The only time I had a break, was when I was pregnant. But a month after my baby was born, back I was again smoking almost a pack a day. The more I stayed at home, the more I smoked, because I was bored, I had too much time. When eventually I got back to work, I didn’t have that much time to go out, so I smoked a bit less throughout the day,  catching up in the evenings.

After I turned 30, something clicked. I kept thinking to myself, that I need to quit, I need to stop. I started getting an itchy sensation in my throat, kept coughing in the morning, was getting headaches and generally wasn’t really enjoying my “cigarette break” anymore. Smoke first thing in the morning would make me nauseous. But I would still have it. After pouring a cup of coffee I would have another one. Only after that daily morning routine I would be able to start my day. I would have one in the car on my way to work. I would have one (or sometimes two) at my coffee break in the morning. I would have one before lunch. I would have one after lunch. I would have one at the afternoon break. One in the car on the way home from work. I would have another one when I get home. Then after dinner. And in the evening? God only knows how many times I would go outside to have a smoke. Generally before I start any activity, or after I finish it. Rain or no rain. Wind, snow, sunshine. It didn’t matter. I would still go outside and try to hide in the corner to make sure I am not getting wet, or more importantly that my cigarette doesn’t get wet. Get back home and know that my breath, my hands, my hair smell of smoke. Be uncomfortable when your little girl wants to give you a kiss, because you know you smell like an ashtray. I remember, that smell when my mother was talking to me when I was small. She smoked. And now my girl feels the same way I felt when I was a child. I didn’t like it. And I am sure she doesn’t either.

I was getting nervous if I was running short on cigarettes. I always needed to plan ahead, to make sure I have enough for the evening and the next morning. If not, I would start panicking and only think about one thing, that I don’t have enough. I would buy 2 packs before going for a night out with my friends, just to make sure I don’t run out. In the morning, I would wake up hangovered and with a headache, and still head outside first thing to light up a cigarette. It would make me feel sick, my head would probably start spinning a bit, but that won’t stop me.

I realized that I didn’t have control over my life anymore. There was something else controlling it. And it was a packet of cigarettes, preferably slim menthol ones.

One day, I remember standing out at my coffee break, smoking, forcing myself to inhale and finish it… This was the moment when something inside my brain clicked. It was like suddenly waking up. Like being in a dark dark room for a long, long time and finally getting out and see the light. Suddenly, very clearly I heard a thought: ” You had enough. You’ve smoked enough. You are fed up.” And this was the moment when I decided I am going to quit.

Now…. It would be absolutely amazing if I could say, that after that realization I never lighted up a cigarette again. But this is not true. It is so, so far away from the truth.  Unfortunately, although making a decision to quit is a huge step forward, it’s not enough. Smoking is a habit that grows into you, into every cell of your blood, every inch of your body. Especially if you have done it for the last 14 years, day in, day out. EVERY day for 14 years. That is more than 5000 days. It won’t let you go that easily, and tobacco companies will do everything they can to make sure you won’t quit. So, the only person you can really rely on is yourself. You can try to “help” yourself with chewing gums, nicotine patches or e-cigarettes (which in my opinion is still smoking), but you might end up replacing one bad habit for another bad habit.

I am not going to tell you how to quit smoking, because I am not an expert in this area and this post is not about it. It’s about the power of habit. Of course, I can tell you how I did it, and what worked for me, but it doesn’t mean that it will work for you too. Every person is different and every person needs to find their own way. What we all have in common though is the HABIT. We all have them, and we can all change them.

Allen Carr’s book “Easyway to quit smoking” was my ticket to freedom. My opportunity to get rid of this bad habit. And this is exactly what he is trying to do in this book. He tricks your mind into thinking that you are getting rid of the habit while still smoking. For me it worked, I am now 8 months “smoke free”!!! Nobody believed I will be able to do it. I never believed I would do it. It took me several months, a good few attempts from initial decision to opening the book. But here I am now. I got rid of this bad habit, and I have noticed the knock on effect this had on my life. Getting rid of one bad habit made me want to get some good ones, but that’s another story though. 🙂

And it doesn’t necessarily has to be smoking. It certainly wasn’t the only bad habit I had! For other people it can be binge eating, drinking, going to bed with make up on, biting nails, driving too fast. The list is endless and please feel free to add to it. For every person it has it’s own impact. Something that is not as serious for one, can be ruining the life for the other.

The bottom line is, the power that habits have in our lives are often underestimated. Think about it…

Rule #8:

Want to change your life for better, start at getting rid of one bad habit and the rest will follow.

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