(Note to Reader: This is the second in a series of 8 blogs that I am sending to you about how to stop bad habits. It is taken from Week 4, The Urgent Necessity of Stopping Bad Habits in Happy School Advanced, the companion study to the book, Happy School. You can access all the lessons at JulieNGordon.com or HERE).
It’s no secret why we love bad habits. They relax the brain, they help us hide and escape from the harshness of life, they soften life, they appear as pleasure, delight, and friends, and they are a cover for disappointment. We also use bad habits to cover feeling unloved, unwanted, uncared for, and unappreciated. Bad habits are a substitute for having good relationships and for participating in fulfilling work. Bad habits help us escape from all our WMDs (What’s Missing and Disappointing) as well as all the unwanted responsibility we must face. They mask the dull, gray, boring areas in our lives.
Bad habits dial down anxiety, grief, restlessness, uneasiness, social anxiety, physical pain, grumpiness, fatigue, and self-pity. They dim failure, regret, and guilt. They dial down the unpleasantness of a bad job or a crummy relationship.
Wow. No wonder we desire our bad habits. They possess quite a resume of skills and services! It’s no wonder that giving them up initially seems like you are sacrificing something important.
Let’s look at the path which got us tangled up in our current bad habit and see how it got such a tight hold on us. Here’s the pattern: we indulged, the dopamine of the pleasure registered in our brain, and then we noted the pleasant escape from the earlier discomfort. We repeated this scenario, causing a neural groove to be formed. “Hey,” we said to ourselves, “I found an easy and cool escape!” The only thing is, we didn’t know this escape hatch was filled with hidden crocodiles and alligators.
It reminds me of the description of the simple, young lad in Proverbs 7:22-23 (the words in the parentheses are mine): “With persuasive words she (the immoral woman) led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk (hear the pleasure?). All at once he followed her (his Lower Nature won) like an ox going to the slaughter (oh dear).”
But this doesn’t have to be you. As you’re now learning, you can make new neural grooves. Humans crawl out of the pit of addiction and bad habits all the time. And you can too.
Abstaining is not deprivation; it’s freedom.
Your bad habits lie to you and con you into thinking they soften life without any strings attached. There are strings attached to everything.
Your bad habit is small at first, but tentacles grow and soon you have a monster wrapped around you. You initially partook to get a need met but you end up sabotaging yourself.
Bad habits work because they provide a momentary thrill, a dopamine reward. Human connection is the best source of dopamine. When we are not connected, we feel a dopamine depletion and fill it with our mood changer of choice. Isolation encourages the use of bad habits because bad habits and their dopamine release meet a human’s need for pleasure. The lonelier you are, the more susceptible you are to addictions and bad habits.
Going through the withdrawal of your bad habit (cigarettes, vaping, Trash Food, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc.) is not fun, but most people can easily do it. (If you are heavily addicted to a substance or activity, please get help.)
The next blog is entitled, You Can Conquer Your Bad Habit. If you’d like to access all 8 blogs now, you can find them in Lesson 4 under the Happy School Advanced tab HERE.
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