(not by me)
We all have thoughts, feelings, behaviors and
habits that we would like to change!
You might look at the title to this article, note its
length, and doubt that so few words could really give
you the keys to overcoming your bad habits.
It's likely that you've tried various techniques with
varying levels of success and concluded that stopping
yourself from doing something that strongly pulls at
you is a hard thing to do. How could the secrets to
doing that be summarized so briefly?
While it's true that stopping bad habits can feel
like a complex and overwhelming challenge, the steps to
doing it are not complex--they are fairly simple. The
consistent repetition of three simple steps can give
you freedom from what you don't want and engagement
in what you do want instead.
Let's see how this can work.
The first step to quitting anything is recognizing
exactly what you are doing. Shine your attention on
what you are doing in precise detail. It's easy to
keep doing something that has negative consequences if
you either avoid looking at what you're doing or get
lost in it. So, this first step is to witness yourself
in the act.
See if it's possible to step back and watch yourself
as if you're an outside observer. See if you can
note "the facts" of the situation, the details of
what you doing. For example, I am placing my hand on
the refrigerator door, pulling it open, and visually
scanning for that chocolate cake.
Then, make note of what you're thinking as you're
doing this. For example, you might be thinking "I
want to reward myself for working so hard today," or
"I'm tired and depressed and this will make me feel
better," or "That chocolate cake is going to taste
Make note of how you feel inside your body in terms of
emotions and physical sensations. For example, you
might feel anxious, guilty, or expectant and you might
have sensations of energy rising up into your head, or
rumbling in your stomach, or waves of excitement.
See if it's possible to make note of whatever you are
thinking, feeling, and doing and accept it. See if
it's possible to witness what is happening without
judging your thoughts, feelings, or actions as
"good" or "bad?" Can you become acutely aware,
in detail, of what you are thinking, feeling, and
doing, as if you are a scientist making objective
As the final part of this recognition step, pause what
you are doing, take a deep breath, and imagine the
consequences of doing this--in the short-term and the
long-term. If you follow-through and take this action,
what will it mean for you later--today, tomorrow, and
beyond? Based on your past experiences with taking
this action, how did it make you feel immediately and
what did it mean for your life in the short and
This completes step one--recognizing what you are
doing and the consequences of it.
Step two is to consider alternative actions you could
take at this moment and the consequences of those--in
the short and long term. For example, you could close
the refrigerator door, put on your sneakers, and go for
a walk outside. Based on your past experience, how did
doing that make you feel and what were the consequences
of that? Brainstorm some other possibilities and their
Step three is to decide what you will do based on what
is more important to you. Based on the different
possible actions before you, imagining how they will
make you feel and what they will mean for you later,
what do you choose?
Make a conscious choice and take that action knowing
why you are choosing it. Whatever choice you make,
stay present during that action, notice the details of that
experience, and make note of its consequences. This
will further increase your mindfulness in what you are
doing which will lead to even better choices in the future.
Now, it's certainly easy to lay out these three steps
and say "This is all you need to do." It takes a bit of time
and repetition to get good at this process--to make it
your own and master it. However, I think you'll find that,
if you start with a sincere attempt at step one, it will give
you some mental space within your actions and some
momentum that will carry you through the next two steps.
Simply pausing, taking a deep breath, and becoming
more conscious about what you are doing and what
it will mean for you later, can create space for something
Enjoy your practice!