Breaking Habits: How to Quit by Doing Something Else

Breaking Habits: Why is quitting unhealthy or counterproductive habits so difficult?  What are the tools that everyone can use to end these habits and start healthier and more productive habits?

Quitting a bad habit is easier when we do something healthy instead. ~

Here are some typical unhealthy or counterproductive habits: procrastination, sitting, overspending, drinking too much alcohol, tardiness, snacking, staying up too late, and so on.

Guilt is Never the Answer

Guilt is never the answer to quitting or breaking habits.  You are not weak.  However, unhealthy, rude habits are powerful.  We succumb to our habits to find comfort from bad feelings.  Guilt only makes the habits more powerful.

My Story

I am going to discuss the steps I used to stop smoking.  However, these steps work in breaking habits of all types.

Smoking may not pose a health threat for everyone.  People who smoke an occasional cigar or a cigarette with friends may not damage their health or their relationships.

This article is not a lecture.  I can only speak for myself about how I have ended unhealthy habits.

I was a chain-smoker.  Whenever I was awake, I had a cigarette in my hands or a cigarette burning in an ashtray at my fingertips.  I had an addiction that created cravings when I didn’t smoke.

However, today, I haven’t smoked a cigarette for over thirty years.  Before smoking my last cigarette, I had quit smoking countless times.

I found that I had two problems.  Quitting and staying stopped.

Recognizing the Habit for What It Is

I had two experiences that told me that smoking was very dangerous for me.  First, my father, one of my uncles, and my father’s dad were smokers. All three men developed emphysema and suffered chronic bronchitis, which is common among people who suffer from emphysema.

Second, I had two colds that turned into bronchitis in as many months.

I realized that smoking was a dangerous threat to my health.

Furthermore, I had people who complained to me about how my smoking bothered them.  Until I became a non-smoker, I had trouble understanding what I was doing to these people.

Breaking Habits: Admitting the Habit Exist

I reached a point where I could admit to myself that smoking would eventually kill me.  Second, I admitted that smoking was selfish and threatened the health of my family and the other people who worked around me.

Furthermore, I had to admit smelling like a smoker had a negative effect on my relationships with other people.  Now that I am a non-smoker, I can smell cigarette smoke fifteen feet away.

Finding Healthy Tools

Quitting was never easy.  Simple, yes.  Easy, no.

The last time I stopped and stayed stopped, I used tools that replaced the elements involved in smoking.  I talked to people who had quit.  Also, I read articles about the things other people had done to stop and stay stopped.

Furthermore, I would call friends when I craved a cigarette.  Talking with them took my mind off my cravings and discomfort.

Here are things helped get through the first two weeks of discomfort.  Part of smoking is the habit of having something between our fingers. I made a chain of paper clips and kept it in my hands to keep my fingers busy. Cravings for a cigarette lasts about 90 seconds. When I became aware that I was craving a cigarette, I would go for a walk to the water fountain or around the atrium at my office.

Knowing that many people ate more when they quit smoking, I began to keep low-calorie foods nearby.  For example, crunching on an apple helped me overcome the habit of putting a cigarette in my mouth.

For two weeks, I felt empty-headed. I had trouble concentrating.  I understood that this sensation was common and would not last.

Lifestyle Changes

Now that I was not smoking, I felt more comfortable doing more exercise.

I joined a health club and went there each morning before work.

With my wife, I took up co-ed softball and soccer. Also, I coached a couple of adult teams. Then I coached my younger daughter’s soccer team.

Instead of trying to stay off cigarettes, I took up healthy habits that changed my life for the better.  By just giving up cigarettes and doing other things instead, my entire lifestyle changed. I was exercising regularly. My wife and I were making new friends who were active non-smokers as well.

Staying stopped was the real problem.  I would go through the discomfort of quitting.  Then I would start again.

But by finding healthier things to do, I have become a non-smoker who can’t understand why other people still smoke.