Bad habits fall into two basic categories. The first type are those we normally think of. They’re the destructive behaviors we engage in that are so blatant that anyone can see them. Smoking, overeating, compulsively shopping, drinking too much wine, nail-biting, or obsessing over social media. These are external bad habits or vices.
The second type of bad habits are not nearly as obvious but are every bit as damaging. These are the bad habits we engage in internally which other people may or may not notice. Negative self-talk, perfectionism, complaining (whether silently or aloud), comparison, competition, procrastination, and jealousy are all examples of internal vices.
Whether bad habits manifest externally or internally, both satisfy the same basic need. Both are an attempt at self-soothing. We reach for negative thoughts for the same reason we reach for that second helping of dessert. We’re hoping for a reduction in stress; an outlet for frustration. In other words, we want to feel better.
A bad habit is driven by the part of ourselves that spiritual author Eckhart Tolle calls “the pain-body.” The pain-body is where we stored unprocessed emotional pain that was too overwhelming to deal with in the moment. When we’re in its throes, we feel powerless or helpless. We lose sight of long-term goals and resources and will do anything to find short term relief from painful emotions.
When triggered often enough, bad habits create a type of groove in our brains and nervous systems. Like a train rolling down the same track day after day, we forget about other paths we could choose. We shut out the infinite number of possibilities available in each moment and habitually turn to those most familiar. In the grips of a bad habit, we block the flow of energy that connects us to our highest, wisest self.
Fortunately, by addressing these blockages at the level of energy and emotion, we can release bad habits once and for all. Here are 3 powerful steps for doing just that:
Step #1: Identify the emotional triggers that activate your “pain body.”
Behavior is always intentional. We take action because we’re seeking to experience pleasure or avoid pain. So, the next time you find yourself reaching for your bad habit (or catch yourself already doing it), stop. Take a couple of deep breaths, and allow yourself to perceive what’s actually going on with you, emotionally and energetically.
You can use the acronym HALT to help you identify what you’re feeling. Are you Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Distinguishing the emotions driving your bad habit is the first powerful step to making a new, more nourishing choice.
Step #2: Identify the form of relief you’re seeking by reaching for your vice.
Step one helped you identify the pain you’re seeking relief from. Step two allows you to connect to the essence of what you’re truly reaching for.
Beyond the immediate discomfort we use bad habits to soothe, there is an energetic state we are seeking. Maybe it’s the energy of ease, of comfort or reassurance. Sometimes – if we’ve been feeling constricted or controlled – we turn to bad habits for a feeling of freedom or release.
See if you can go beneath the immediate need your vice is fulfilling, to the energy you are truly seeking. And please engage in this inquiry with an attitude of curiosity and non-judgment. You are an energetic being, and you are meant to feel good. And when you don’t feel good, it’s completely natural that you would turn to any means to improve your mood.
Step #3: Identify at least 3 alternative ways that you could soothe your emotional trigger and experience the energetic state you’re seeking.
Remember that it’s a shift in your energy that you are ultimately reaching for every time you reach for your vice. And, because you are an energetic being, there are limitless ways to provide the shift in vibration you’re seeking. Actions such as breathing deep, drinking water, stepping outside, stretching your body, taking a bath, going for a walk or a drive, or soaking in a hot tub are always life-affirming.
At a time when you’re feeling calm and centered, ask yourself the following questions:
- What other, more empowering ways could I go about meeting this need?
- How could I replace the behavior of (fill-in-the-blank) with something that leaves me feeling good about myself rather than bad?
- What is the essence of what I’m reaching for, and how could I achieve that shift more directly?
Acknowledging that you have the power to shift your energy is the key to releasing bad habits once and for all.
Christy Whitman is an energy healer, celebrity coach, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Having It All: A Woman’s Guide to Unlimited Abundance. If you’re ready to discover the limitlessness of your own wisdom and power, join Christy’s conscious community and begin to manifest greater abundance in your life with 7 days of free meditations.