It is often more efficient to get rid of a bad habit than to try to eradicate it. It’s possible to have a good habit and a bad one, which is the beauty of habit substitution. “At home, I used to smoke. So I set up a bench and went outside to do some reps. My craving for smoking was greatly reduced after that.
The following thought was intriguing to me. One reader suggested that they stop biting their nails and start cutting them. “I stopped biting my nails by keeping clippers close at hand, especially at work.
Many readers have found a way to substitute a different habit by taking a “stairstep” approach. They slowly shift from their old habits to something better.
Mark shared the following strategy. I significantly reduced my beer consumption. I substituted beer with flavored sparkling water and asked my wife to give up beer from the fridge. After I got rid of the stress drinking, I was able add beer to my life again.
Marc was also a reader who cut down on his alcohol consumption in a similar fashion. I replaced my daily beer consumption with a series of substitutes. First, fruit juice, then iced tea, and then seltzer water. It took me nine months to do it, and I only had one drink per week. After quitting, the cravings disappeared in two weeks. “I haven’t had any alcohol in over a decade.”
Shawn used this method to quit smoking. “I quit smoking, and substituted a Snickers candy bar for my major cravings until I was satisfied. “Years later, I am still smoking-free.”
Substitution can also be used in a wider sense. Suraj said, “I was addicted drugs and alcohol.” I began working out to overcome my addiction. I now plan to compete in powerlifting matches.”
Habit substitution can be used to help you look for a healthier obsession. Some people are addicted to alcohol. Some people are addicted to exercise. Both can lead to health problems if they are taken to far. However, it is better to exercise a few times a day than to drink a few.
Sometimes, I use clever mental tricks to keep a good habit. Caelan, a reader wrote that she quit smoking by making my cheat days longer. I didn’t quit smoking “for good”, I just quit until my next cheat day. This was a great way to curb cravings. It wasn’t about “now” or “never”, it was “right then” or later.
Ken used a similar strategy for his fast food habit. I started small, when I stopped eating McDonalds and drinking soda every day. I promised myself that I would take a week off and then I said I would take two weeks. I continued. Today, it was four years and fifteen months since I stopped eating McDonalds and I have gone without soda for 15 months.
Another person used the Pointing and Callling strategy, which I have discussed in Chapter 4. They wrote that they quit smoking by repeating a mantra loudly every time I wanted to smoke (“your brain tricks me”), which I believe changed my thinking from my subconscious brain to the logical.
Qiana used math and a clever visual trick. She wrote, “I quit drinking soda.” I added all the sodas that I had consumed during the week and calculated how many teaspoons of sugar there were in each can and bottle. I started to scoop out the sugar in a large bowl. The visual helped me. That was a bad habit that I had to stop.
Let me close by mentioning one of my favourite strategies: habit tracking. Here are some examples of how readers use it. Cindy wrote me an email stating that she had purchased a large wall calendar, and was now building the chains. This works well for me. That chain is what I love to make. I have 6 months of red “X”‘s on the calendar. I feel healthier, have lost 30 lbs, feel stronger, exercise more and garden more.
Use the Habit Journal templates to help you start to track your habits. This will make it easy to track your habits. I prefer to track a small portion of my habit. For the past month, I have been keeping track of my habit of reading 1 page per day. Gunter, a reader, did something similar. “I have been doing a simple workout almost every day for the past half-year. I changed the scope to make it easier to follow: I skip a set if I don’t have enough time or feel like doing a full set. It is also marked in my calendar.
These stories should give you some inspiration on how to create better habits in your life. Atomic Habits has more information about the strategies mentioned above. The Habit Journal is a notebook that helps you build better habits.
Keep moving forward in small steps each day, no matter what. These ideas are so rewarding to me. Thank you for reading.