Quitting Bad Habits with Mindfulness | Here is How
We all have habits.
Good habits lead us to a productive and healthy life, while bad habits act as the opposite.
But, most of us don’t know the ‘bad habits’ we have that lead us to disaster.
Why we meet failure after failure, and despite some success, why we still are unhappy?
We think smoking, playing games, spending too much money, watching t.v, etc., are the ‘bad habits’ we have.
Of course, these are bad habits that can lead us to a negative life.
But, these are external which can be noticed by anyone.
The true bad habits are within us, which grows and creates more external bad habits.
Once you identify them, your transformation begins.
In this article, we will discuss those bad habits and how to quit them with mindfulness.
How our mind works.
Our mind is a wonderful tool.
It solves complicated problems, creates things, and also responsible for sadness, pleasure, anger, stress, success, pain, etc.
The primary job of our brain is survival.
It can create fear if there is a threat to our survival.
It can create excitement if there is an opportunity for growth in our survival.
Everything we do, we do because our brain needs to secure its safety on earth.
We need wealth, good relationships, a healthy body, a healthy mind, etc., that can ensure that we are safe in this world.
But, the mind knows these above activities are good for you because these give us pleasure, not fear and stress.
The activities that create fear, anxiety, and stress are negative activities, according to our minds.
So, we don’t jump into a fight without any proper reason.
We don’t walk on a busy road carelessly.
We don’t punch our boss on the nose, though we want to, without a strong reason.
If our mind knows what is right and wrong, then why we eat junk foods, play excessive video games, have toxic relationships, failed marriages, live most of our life on debts, etc.
The mind doesn’t justify actions with their characteristics.
It doesn’t know what is a good or bad action for our survival.
It only knows what behavior or action gives us more pleasure, not fear and anxiety.
The actions or behaviour that can give us more pleasure quickly are the actions our mind thinks are most important for survival.
Playing video games surely makes you feel pleasurable rather than filing your tax return. Eating junk food too is more enjoyable than eating salad, sitting and relaxing is better than going for a run, etc. The examples can go on for days.
The next thing about the mind is that the more we do certain behavior with focus and attention, the deeper our cravings become to repeat that behavior.
If you have watched pornography for the first time, you will feel intense pleasure.
The mind will remember this activity as important because it gave you a huge amount of pleasure.
So, the mind will want to repeat the behavior over and over again.
The more you repeat, the stronger your habit becomes and ultimately leads to addiction.
An addicted mind is a mind in a cage.
There is no freedom, no happiness, and no joy.
The cause of bad habits.
If your bathroom pipe is leaking, you cannot solve the problem just by shutting the doors.
You need to fix the pipe.
Quitting playing video games, stop watching pornography, or quitting smoking or drinking will not stop your bad habits.
Sooner or later, you will be back to your older self.
If you want to quit your bad habits permanently, you need to find the cause of your bad habits.
The cause of bad habits is the unconscious attachment with the mind.
No matter how perplexing it sounds, but it is the truth.
It is the false representation of ourselves that the cause of our pain, fear, anxiety, worry, and stress.
We will discuss this false representation of ourselves in the latter part of the article.
What do you mean by unconscious attachment with our mind?
We think we know who we are.
But, your true self is not the person that is reading this article.
Your true self is detached from your mind.
You may try your best to understand your true self with the mind, but the more you try, the more unsettling and confusing it will get.
You cannot understand your true self with the mind because it has nothing to do with the mind.
How can you know something, which you don’t know in the first place?
Your true self can only be realized, or in other words, become aware when there are no thoughts, no time, future, or past and start living in the moments.
Once you realize your true self, all your bad habits will be stopped on their own.
Once you detach yourself from the mind, your life will take on a new journey.
A journey to freedom and a journey to happiness.
If my true self is not my mind, what is it, and how I can realize it?
Also, why the mind is the cause of our bad habits?
The rest of the article will answer this question.
But, before advancing, let’s discuss the difference between happiness and pleasure.
Happiness and Pleasure.
Pleasure comes from external sources.
Material wealth, achievement, ice creams, chocolates, smoking, talking with your crush, etc.
Our pleasure depends on external sources.
If we have it, or we will have it someday, it gives us pleasure and puts a smile on our face.
If we lose it, or the future seems dark, pain and anxiety occur.
Happiness comes from within us.
It doesn’t need any external sources to be happy.
You are already happy; it is just that our mind covers it with the false representation.
This seems like a complicated topic to understand, but, in truth, it is the easiest and simplest thing in the world.
By the end of the article, you will have an understanding of happiness and pleasure and how happiness can transform our lives quicker than we can think.
Why the mind is the cause of our bad habits?
The mind always operates with time, the future, or the past.
It cannot survive in the present at this moment. It is only your true self in the present.
As we discussed earlier, the primary job of our mind is survival.
So, the mind constantly searches for opportunities to strengthen our survival or eliminate the threats that can occur in the near future.
You need to study hard to succeed; becoming successful is a good thing and enhances your security for survival.
You need to earn more money, to have a good life.
You need to finish that book you are writing; you need to submit the assignment in two weeks; you need to have a good life partner for a happy life.
Most of you may not agree with the last example.
You may say like, you don’t need any relationship. You are better single, but your evolutionary mind says otherwise, which you may be unaware of for now.
Again, success, money, fulfilling your responsibilities, and healthy relationships are not bad things.
It is our attachment, our cravings for it, that cause the problems.
Our minds always visualize our future self as a better person than what we are today.
The future self is wealthy, successful, happy, and anything better than what we are now.
Most of us are so attached to this future self, we forget about the present self.
Our minds constantly think about the future.
What we are going to eat, what will happen if she rejects.
I will do this today, then that.
Once I have this, once I have that.
One day I will be this or that; everything will be okay someday, etc.
Again, it is obsessed with the past too.
Why did this happen to me? If I had been more prepared, only if I knew it in advance, I was once so happy, etc.
We are so busy with our thoughts, the present slips away in front of our eyes, and once we get old or reach our ends, we say how our life has passed so quickly.
It only seems like yesterday that you were just a kid, running wild in the open field, playing with your childhood friends, and smiling from the heart.
Where did it all go?
It was always there; you just never paid attention to it.
You never paid attention to this moment, the moment where you are breathing, reading this article, and again thinking that you are thinking about it.
You never paid attention to the true self, your present self, who is already here with you.
So, once you fail to achieve your goals and once you cannot meet your expectation and desires, catastrophe occurs.
You have designed all your future moments in your mind in advance because your mind needs to strengthen your survival.
You work hard for a period, your expectation changes, and you redesign your future again.
Once you meet that, your expectation again changes, and you redesign again.
Because the more security you have for your life, the better.
Once you fail to meet your expectation, stress, worry, and self-doubt occur.
The reality keeps getting difficult in expectation of a better future.
Once the reality gets too difficult, and where you cannot face it anymore, you find ways to escape.
Short-term pleasures, like video games and gambling.
Thus, the process to create your bad habits begin.
Convincing the mind
We already know that we cannot know what is going to happen in the future moments.
We also know that we cannot change what has already happened.
Still, we cannot stop thinking about our future and the past.
This is compulsive thinking, a necessity to think and stop future disasters.
By thinking compulsively, we forget that future disasters can only be stopped by working on the present.
But, you cannot stop thinking about the future or the past because this is where the mind lives.
If you can stop it, you will find your true self and detach yourself from the mind.
The mind will not let that happen.
It cannot jeopardize its safety to something else that is unknown to the mind.
How can our mind trust our true self when it doesn’t know what our true self looks like.
So, we worry more, work more, stressed more, play more, eat more, and if we do accumulate wealth and healthy relationships, we still remain unhappy and miserable.
As if something is missing from our lives.
Freeing ourselves from our minds is freedom.
Freeing ourselves from the grip of our mind is quitting our bad habits permanently.
What your true self looks like?
Your true self is still, calm, and connected with the present moment.
It is always here.
It is the source of unlimited energy, the source of peace and joy, and the source of creativity.
It never dwells in the past, nor the future, because it is not a tool, not an entity, but a presence, a being.
It is shapeless, formless, timeless, and it resides within every single human being.
Your true self doesn’t worry about the next moment or the future moments.
It doesn’t think about the past events either.
It never judges, hates, feels jealous, feels excited, thrilled, or gets angry.
Though, this true self always knows what you should do at this moment.
It knows time is fake, an illusion of our mind, and it also knows that the only way to achieve our goals in life is by making a decision at this moment.
Your true self doesn’t make decisions for the rest of your evening or the rest of your life.
It only takes a decision for this moment.
When you are living in the moment, you already know what you are going to do.
Once you start living in the moments, you find an unlimited supply of energy from your deep consciousness, and you go with the flow of moments.
But, becoming aware of the moment we are living in is not easy.
This would require enormous energy to detach ourselves from the mind.
Because the mind has always covered our true self and made itself our identity.
We think, since childhood, that we are our mind.
Once you become aware of the moment, for even a second, the covers lift momentarily.
You feel calm, peaceful, joyous, and energized for an instant.
The mind sees this as a threat to its survival.
It immediately tries to cover the true self back.
The realization that you had a moment ago seems to slip away.
Thoughts, frustration, anger, and doubts again start to surface within you.
You may say something like:
I cannot do this. It doesn’t work. This spiritual talk is all hocus pocus.
I felt something for a moment; now it’s gone.
I know I am thinking, I also know that I know I am thinking, but how to stop that thinking.
I know I am watching my thoughts, but who is watching the watcher.
It seems like you will go crazy if you keep going on this.
This happens because you have started shaking the belief that you are your mind.
The mind is vulnerable, and it can do anything, panic, frustration, anger, pleasure, to protect its identity.
Before proceeding with how to find our true selves, let’s talk about the fake representation of us by our minds.
The fake representation of us.
If you close your eyes and try to feel your existence through your mind, you will feel ‘you’.
You will know that this is you, this person that is reading, breathing, thinking, etc.
This person was sleeping last night, and you don’t know how the night has gone, now you are awake, and you can feel your surroundings, yourself.
You think you are also conscious now about your presence in this world.
This person gets happy when it achieves something, gets sad when bad things happen, becomes excited about a potential future, and also gets depressed and stressed when things don’t go according to its plan.
This person gets angry when it feels like something is attacking him and feels fear when the danger is near.
It wants things after things, never gets satisfied with what it has, never stops chasing the future self, and always has good reasons for its actions.
If a six-year-old points out his mistake, this person even gets angry and tries to justify why the kid is wrong.
If this person has a bad habit of playing video games excessively, it also has good reasons not to stop playing and continue with his life.
The chase never stops, the dreams never stop, the search never stops because this is not you.
It is just a representation of your mind.
When you try to defend yourself from a verbal attack, do you know whom you are defending?
When you try to focus on your work, why you think you need to work for three or four or ten hours for that day?
Why you keep planning for the future moments and get stressed and worried when you already have the present to live.
Because the fake representation of the mind wants to be secure, it wants to eliminate all the possible threats in the future.
It wants to survive just like everyone else.
This fake representation of ourselves is known as ‘EGO’.
The present moment
If you want to break your bad habits, start living in the present.
How to start living in the present?
It will take time if you are new to awareness.
Start by paying attention to what you are doing, thinking, and feeling.
When you are eating, pay attention to eating, because this is what you are doing at the moment.
When you are walking, pay attention to your walking, because in the present you are walking.
If you are going home after your office, pay attention that you are driving.
You are not in your home, and thinking that you are going to reach your home in 10-20 minutes is the work of the mind, not you.
You are again living in the future.
At this moment, you are driving, and if you keep driving, you will reach your home.
You don’t need to think about it.
Reaching your home will be the future moments, and soon it will become your present.
The present is the only truth because in the past also, there were present moments; in the future also, there will be present moments.
Try to look at your surroundings, are birds flying in the sky, is your neighbor mowing his lawn, are the kids playing on the street.
If this is happening, then this is the present for you.
Become mindful of your actions, emotions, and thoughts. This is the greatest tool you have for your transformation.
Also, practice mindfulness meditation.
This will quicken the process.
I know there will be many questions in your mind after reading this, and I try my best to cover as much as possible in a single article.
But, it is impossible for me to cover everything.
To understand this better, the two books I recommend are given below.
Once you know your true self, your bad habits will be dealt with on their own because the true self doesn’t have any bad habits.