When it comes to a life-makeover, the emphasis is often on new habits that you can adopt to improve the quality of your life. Often these makeovers are an attempt to overcome some major frustration in life. If you’re trying to be more productive, a good habit might be to wake up earlier in the morning; and if you’re trying to improve your relationships, a good habit might be to learn the art of listening.
However, while a lot can be said about the value of creating good habits, many of our problems are self-induced—our bad habits make things in our lives even more difficult to manage. The reason we adopt bad habits is because they are a way to numb some other issue we might be experiencing. For this reason, bad habits may be harder to drop than good habits are to adopt.
Let’s take a look at three common bad habits we use as band-aids in an attempt to stanch deeper emotional wounds: drinking, smoking, and the overuse of prescription painkillers.
- Are you drinking too much?
Few people who drink frequently have enough self-awareness to ask “am I an alcoholic?” Instead, they use the executive functions of their brain to go into denial. If you drink too much, it’s a way of stopping yourself from facing a habit that is slowly destroying the quality of your life. In fact, it might even destroy your life itself if you drink and drive or do other reckless things when under the influence.
Even people who don’t drink in excess, but who drink fairly regularly, are causing themselves harm. While they may be able to do a good job at work and be responsible family members, alcohol could still be affecting their health. A woman who consumes two or more drinks a day and a man who drinks three or more drinks a day are at risk for liver damage, including cancers relating to the liver. They are also at higher risk for depression and high blood pressure.
The best way to overcome this bad habit is to ask for help. Sobriety requires the help of professional counselors, support groups, and specialists in chemical dependency. It requires prolonged guidance and emotional support for recovery.
- Is it time to quit smoking?
Cigarettes have been linked to many serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer (mouth, throat, lungs, and bladder cancers). It also increases risk for asthma attacks, bronchitis, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. In a 2016 fact sheet, the Center for Disease Control says that one in every five deaths in the US is due to smoking cigarettes.
Quitting smoking is not as simple as understanding why smoking is harmful and using will power to break the habit. Your body has become addicted to nicotine and craves it. So it’s necessary to back up any resolutions to quit smoking with nicotine replacement products like nasal sprays or transdermal skin patches or other products a doctor may suggest or prescribe.
- Do you overuse painkillers?
While many people are aware of the dangers of substance abuse, like misusing prescription drugs, fewer are aware of the harm caused by common pain killers.This is not to say that you shouldn’t take an ibuprofen for an occasional headache or lower back pain for some rapid relief. The problem is overuse over time. Overuse of pain killers can cause long-term problems like high blood pressure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and even heart attacks.
If you have frequent aches and pains and the only response you get from doctors is another prescription for another drug, it’s advisable to find a more holistic solution to get to the core of the problem. Find out the cause of your aches and pains. Look into homeopathic medicine or alternative medicine. For instance, lower back pain may be due to a sedentary job and the need for a series of chiropractic adjustments. Besides professional help, you will probably also have to make some lifestyle changes—using a more ergonomic chair, getting up to walk around every half-hour, and doing regular stretching exercises.
Overcoming your Resistance to Change
In a strange way, we have a love-hate relationship with our bad habits. We may love the calming effect of a good cigarette, but hate our hacking smoker’s cough.
We love our bad habits because they have served us well. Alcohol provides the benefits of forgetting how miserable we feel; smoking a cigarette calms us down almost immediately; and painkillers quickly relieve our physical suffering. Unfortunately, these short-term fixes also create long-term damage. When it comes to makeovers, getting rid of bad habits that cause serious health risks may be the most effective ways we can change our life for the better. While disposing of your bad habits isn’t easy, it’s definitely worthwhile. Once you have these behind you, any positive habits you will adopt will have a much greater impact.