Monday, October 30, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Quit Your Bad Habit

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our ninth post is: QUIT YOUR BAD HABIT


My father smoked every day from when he was fifteen. I tried to convince him to quit for years, I warned him it would kill him.

He’d say: “We all have to die from something.”

And I’d say: “Pick something less stupid.”

He didn’t. He died of throat cancer at 60. My youngest brother was twelve.

We all have bad habits and if yours is smoking, it has a 50% chance of being what kills you. Even if you don’t smoke, we all have at least one bad habit. Maybe its drinking or prescription drugs. Maybe it's something less harmful like chewing your nails or spending too much time on facebook. Whatever it is, it's called a bad habit because its detrimental to your life in some way.

Your life would be better, however slightly, if you could kick this habit!

Some research suggests the best way to kick an old habit is to replace it with a good one. Our habits fulfil a need. We are seeking some sort of gratification, and the habit gives it to us somehow. We smoke because it feels good. We open facebook because we get a rush. Even chewing our nails feels good at the time, even if we hate ourselves afterward.

You can’t just leave a void when you kick a habit, you need to put something else in its place. Preferably something that also makes you feel good, but is productive in some way. It helps to make a list of small, productive things you can do that make you feel good. The idea being, when you catch yourself about to do the bad habit, you do the good habit instead.

A good example might be, every time you go to open facebook, instead open your manuscript (if you are writing one) and write a single sentence. If you casually go to open facebook as often as I do, you could potentially write an entire novel that way in a few months.

Maybe every time you want a smoke, you can read a few pages of a book. Or every time you go to bite your nails, you can put something away that’s lying around where it shouldn’t.

Sometimes, rewards can be a great motivation to drop a bad habit. Let's say you want to quit drinking. You got rid of all the alcohol in the house, you have replaced drinking in the evening with reading a chapter of a book, and now you want to reward yourself. Maybe if you stay sober for 30 days, you can reward yourself with a spa day. Or those new boots you really need. If you stay sober for a whole year, take that trip to Spain you’ve always wanted. Then when temptation comes along, you can ask yourself: “Do I want this drink, or do I want to go to Spain?”

There are plenty of systems out there to help you quit. The best place to look is often your phone. Search the apps store for motivational and tracking software that works for you. My favorite is Habitica, which I use to promote good habits, rather than punishing bad ones. It works on my phone and my PC and I love it. (

Remember, some bad habits can be dangerous to quit. If you are a drug addict or a heavy drinker, it is best to quit under medical supervision. If any of your bad habits are the result of a mental illness, please speak to your psychologist or health care professional before taking drastic measures to motivate yourself. I want you to be happy, healthy and safe at all times, because I love you guys.

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