I found a wonderful talk on TED today where the psychiatrist Judson Brewer elaborates on using mindfulness to break bad habits.
He uses the example of smoking. When building the bad habit of smoking we have propped it up with positive feelings, such as the feeling that we are cool when we smoke. As the habit progresses the rewards that we initially gained become all the more subconscious. It becomes an automated behaviour; a habit.
What I found was really interesting was the way he suggested to break the habit. He didn’t tell his clients “You need to stop smoking”. In fact he did exactly the opposite. He encouraged the client to smoke BUT to do so consciously. Since the habit is an unconscious act bringing in consciousness makes all the difference. When the clients began smoking consciously they themselves found all kinds of nasty things that they were not aware of. Smoking mindfully they began noticing how their body reacted, how they felt, how it smelled and many other things that they had been totally unaware of before. That in turn motivated them to quit or made them loose interest all together, sickened by the insight of what they were doing to themselves.
So next time you want to break a bad habit you might want to try something very different from what you usually do. Instead of trying to cut it off, bring in consciousness and go into the habit. You might find that the key to solving it is right there in front of you.by