Our daily lives are usually a set of habits that we do throughout the day. We have all kinds of habits some are good and some are bad. We don’t realize earlier about bad habits when we realized about them it’s been too late to leave them. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) warned us against bad habits and asked us to do good deeds if we want to get rid of from bad habits. Allah says:
فَمَا رَعَوْهَا حَقَّ رِعَايَتِهَا فَآتَيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ
“But they did not observe it with due observance, so We gave the ones who believed among them their reward, but many of them were defiantly disobedient.” (Surah Al-Hadeed 57:27)
Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. Once you’ve identified the problem, focus on the solution. No matter what your solution is, set a date as a goal for when you want to be completely free of your habit. Give yourself milestones along the way and track your progress as you go. Try to understand what needs your bad habit satisfied and then meet those needs with a healthier activity. Allah says:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
“Verily, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Surah Ar-Rad 13:11)
The first step to change bad habits for life is to identify the triggers that may cause you to fall into a constant ongoing cycle, which then leads you into a never-ending loop of bad habits. It is about finding the cues that trigger the neurons in our brain to react in a certain way. We can empower ourselves to react in the right manner which will allow us to break the cycle.
How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One:
- Try to replace the unwanted behaviour with a new behaviour
- Try to rethink the action when something triggers you
- Try to motivate yourself with rewards for success
- Try to outweigh the desire to pursue the old habit
- Try to practice a different response in reality
- Try to change your approach stay on track
- Try to have an easier time breaking a habit
- Try to build a plan and plot your progress
- Try to prioritize your own wellness
- Try to map out your habit loops
- Try to change unwanted habits
- Try to make time for restful sleep
- Try to replace the reward with curiosity
- Try to kick multiple habits in the same go
- Try to replace the habit with a different one
- Try to follow the new routine that develops
- Try to visualize yourself breaking the habit
- Try to imagine yourself in a triggering situation
- Try to avoid the candy dish, you might fall back
- Try to explore anything blocking you from change
- Try to practice new replacement habits mentally, too
- Try to relaxation or other things that improve your mood
- Try to stop reaching for candy when you’re hungry at work
Habits are a valuable part of a healthy lifestyle because good daily behaviours get locked in as they become automatic. Breaking unwanted habits can be difficult, especially if you’ve been engaging in them for a long time. Having habits can often be a good thing. When you drive to work, for example, you don’t need to wonder whether you should turn left or right; the route becomes a habit.
Understanding how habits form in the first place can ease the process:
- Enlist a friend’s support: Quitting along with a friend won’t make the cravings go away. But they might be easier to deal with when facing someone else.
- Practice mindfulness: Develop awareness around your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This practice involves simply observing impulses that relate to your habit without judging them or reacting to them.
- Set better goals: Examine how you’ve responded to the situation in the past and determine what you can do to avoid the cookies in the future.
- Focus: Seeing the list can keep the change you’re trying to make fresh in your mind. If you do happen to fall back into the habit, your list reminds you why you want to keep trying.
- Reminder: This is a trigger, or cue, that could be a conscious behaviour, such as flushing the toilet, or a feeling, such as nervousness.
- Routine: This is the behaviour associated with the trigger. Flushing the toilet cues you to wash your hands while feeling nervous triggers biting your nails. Doing something over and over can make the behaviour routine.
- Reward: The reward associated with behaviour also helps make a habit stick. If you do something that causes enjoyment or relieves distress, the pleasurable release of dopamine in your brain can make you want to do it again.
Breaking bad habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance. Most people who end up breaking bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work. You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all. Changing the way you do things requires time, effort and a lot of willpower, so it’s wise to make the change slowly rather than in one go.
Most of your bad habits are caused by these things and ways to break bad habits:
- The goal is to be aware of any happening: In the beginning, your goal isn’t to judge yourself or feel guilty about doing something unhealthy or unproductive.
- Choose a substitute for your bad habit: You need to have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit.
- Cut out as many triggers as possible: If you smoke when you drink, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat cookies when they are in the house, then throw them all away.
- Visualize yourself succeeding: See yourself throwing away the cigarettes or buying healthy food or waking up early.
- Stress and boredom: You can teach yourself new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom, which you can then substitute in place of your bad habits.
- Simply cut out bad habits: If you expect yourself to simply cut out bad habits without replacing them, then you’ll have certain needs that will be unmet.
- You don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it: In many cases, your bad habit is a simple way to cope with stress. It’s better to replace your bad habits with healthier behaviour that addresses that same need.
Get motivated to successfully break a habit, it’s important to identify why you want to change. Write down your reasons. What are the upsides of changing? What are the downsides of continuing the behaviour? Keep this list with you in case you need to look at it for motivation. Harness the power of positive reinforcement to build on your gains. After making small changes towards breaking your habit, reward yourself.
Here are some steps mentioned below which will help you to change the bad habits in a successful way:
- Remember Allah Almighty loves those who commit mistakes and repent: Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them.” (Muslim)
- Identify your bad habits: Identifying bad habits is to ask your partner, friends, or family. They’ll quickly point out behaviours you didn’t even realize you had. However, you’ll need to be open to what they have to say.
- Plan to change your bad habits: It should include your reasons for changing; obstacles you will face and also support which will help to achieve your planning to get rid of bad habits.
- Replace a bad habit with the good one: It’s essential to replace the lost natural needs, such as the need to socialize and to be entertained with something healthy.
- Think of yourself as a different person: Tell yourself that you can do better simply motivate yourself which will definitely be going to help you in this manner.
- Changing the habits: In a way to other things requires time, effort and a lot of willpower, so it’s wise to make the change slowly rather than in one go.
- Do Dua at the beginning: All along and till the end – asking Allah Almighty for help and courage to quit all the bad habits and for constancy to prevent a setback.
- Worship is the most important: Factor that always strengthens an individual to resist his soul and power that weakens the soul.
- Remind yourself the death and hereafter: That will surely be going to help you to get rid of bad habits.
Each of us has unique triggers, insecurities and goals, it is up to us to learn them and act accordingly. Aim to go with the trial and error method. We should try things one way, then adapt the plan to improve the success rate. We all have bad habits. Our nafs just wants pleasure from doing them, even when our mind knows that they are bad. It is the desire to feel that pleasure in an instant, in contrast to everlasting pleasure like the pleasures of Paradise described in the Quran. Allah says:
وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“And do not throw (yourselves) with your (own) hands into destruction (by refraining). And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:195)
Attach yourself to Allah, not things of this Dunya, especially those things that can impact your life negatively both in this life and the next. Humble yourself before Allah. Repent for your sins and ask Him to guide you on the straight path. It is this closeness to Him that will help you to nurture a hatred towards the things He hates, and a love for the things He loves therefore making it easier to abandon your bad habits. Just start to change your habits slowly with patience. May Allah help us in this matter! Ameen