5 Tips To Understand Addiction And Quit Unhealthy Habits
Addictions come in many forms, ranging from the more obvious examples such as heroin or cocaine addiction right through to more subtle forms such as food, sex or social media addiction.
Although they might seem like distinct issues, they’re all described by the word addiction because they share many similarities, and they can all be helped in the same basic way. Writing in the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, therapist David Smallwood shares five tips for understanding addiction and overcoming unhealthy habits.
Tips For Understanding Addiction And Quitting Unhealthy Habits
1. Determine Your Vice
The fact that not all addictions conform to the stereotypical image of persistent drug or alcohol abuse means it’s not as easy as you may think to work out whether you have an addiction or what the subject of it is. Remember that more socially acceptable activities, such as drinking cup after cup of coffee, working 12-hour days, going to the gym every day and eating sugar or fat-laden foods can also be the subjects of addictions. Smallwood suggests that asking a friend to critique your lifestyle may reveal some issues you aren’t aware of, even if it isn’t always a pleasant experience.
2. Learn And Avoid Your Triggers
Compulsive behaviors are a core feature of addiction, and these compulsions are brought on by internal and external “triggers.” These are feelings or situations that lead you to crave your substance or activity of choice, such as loneliness, anger, exhaustion, stress, depression or hunger. Once you identify the factors that are most crucial in creating your cravings, the goal is to break the link between the triggers and the resulting behavior. For example, if you feel stressed or irritable, you should consider calling a friend or family member, taking deep breaths, having a warm drink or taking a calming walk. Smallwood emphasizes the importance of breakfast; if you skip it, mounting hunger cravings throughout the day may be misconstrued as cravings for your substance or activity of choice.
3. Practice Mindfulness And Stay In The Moment
The basic premise of mindfulness—staying “in the moment”—is a useful tip for managing anxieties associated with attempting to remain abstinent. The goal is to focus on the now rather than getting caught up in the past or future; in Smallwood’s words, “Focus on what you are doing, rather than what you are not doing.” Take a walk and focus on the sensory information you’re absorbing; pay attention to the vibrant colors and silky textures of flower petals or the chirping of courting birds rather than being lost in regrets from the past or fears about the future. Practice meditation to improve this skill: simply sitting for 20 minutes or so and trying to focus on one thing (such as your breathing) can help empty your thoughts and bring about mindfulness.
4. Tackle The Underlying Problem
One common problem you may encounter when trying to overcome addiction is “cross addiction.” You might quit smoking, for example, only to “fill the gap” by overworking or overeating. In reality, the real cause of addiction is something deeply rooted, not the specific substance or behavior. If you switch from smoking or drug abuse to overeating, you’re just swapping one addiction for another. Smallwood jokingly compares this to swapping deck chairs on the Titanic; it’s not exactly the same situation, but you’re still heading for trouble on the same boat. Identify the root cause of your addiction (addiction treatment professionals are invaluable in this area) and work on overcoming it, rather than allowing it to manifest in a new way.
5. Set Goals
If you’ve resolved to overcome addiction, it’s important to establish what you’re trying to achieve. Setting definite goals gives you something to work toward, and later down the line, it can help you appreciate how far you’ve come. Smallwood suggests choosing a point of time—two months in the future, two years in the future, whenever suits you—and writing yourself a letter detailing your current lifestyle and how you’d like it to have changed at your chosen date. Put it in an envelope and keep it somewhere prominent and noticeable, with your chosen date written on it. The closed envelope will serve as a reminder of your goals, and when the date arrives, you can read the letter and see if you’ve been successful in your intentions. Taking a step back and examining your lifestyle like this can give you the motivation to keep working to improve yourself and your life.
You DO Have What It Takes To Overcome Addiction!
Beating addiction isn’t easy. It’s a fiendish enemy that can hide in the shadows, change appearances like a chameleon and come back into the fray when you least expect it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and with the right support and a positive mindset, you do have what it takes to make a change in your life. These five tips don’t cover every aspect of the issue, but they provide a useful, at-a-glance run-through of the core steps in overcoming addiction. If you keep these lessons in mind and work to implement them in your life, you’ll soon be on your way to regaining control and getting your life back on track.
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