Quitting or Regulating Unhealthy Habits

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Quite often our new year's resolutions are a fantastic motivator to prompt us into getting fit and healthy, shedding that extra weight, quitting smoking, regulating alcohol consumption, or even reducing work hours to start spending more time with the family. But even as we focus on our new healthy lifestyle changes we still have to face the reality of quitting or regulating the old unhealthy habits.

Once the decision has been made to take action, it is time to begin the journey of lifestyle change. Let us face reality, unhealthy habits are going to be difficult to break, but there are several ways to approach this life changing effort. Going cold turkey seems to be the most common approach for quitting unhealthy habits, but that path may not prove successful for everyone. The important thing to always remember is to never give up on your quest to quitting or at least regulating unhealthy behaviours for the purpose of achieving a longer healthier lifestyle. From the suggestions below, see which method will work better for you:

Cold Turkey Approach
Certain unhealthy habits require self restraint as the objective, meaning absolutely no further relationship at all with the habit. Common sense dictates that self restraint is essential for unhealthy habits that are likely to cause physical harm to your health and wellbeing, such as smoking or drug abuse. Numerous addiction programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery give emphasis to self restraint as the only way to change an addictive habit that involves chemical substances.

When quitting your unhealthy habit via the cold turkey method, you just up and turn your back on it. You may believe this method to be quick and clean, and with strong determination it can be, but it can also be very demanding and ruthless. Keep in mind that those unhealthy habits may have taken years to establish themselves into your everyday life, and now they modify the chemistry and functioning of your brain. Shutting them down immediately may cause a backlash sort of response that exacerbates your cravings in the short term. As soon as the mind recovers from the initial shock, things will slowly return to normal. But at least be prepared to ride out that storm.

The definite advantage of quitting via the cold turkey method is that you have instantly ceased the unhealthy behaviour and are already on the road to recovery. The risk of quitting via the cold turkey method is that the shock to your system might be too much for your thoughts, emotions, and body that you fail in your attempt to quitting and immediately return to your unhealthy habits. With long term chemical substance abuse such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and various other addictive substances, you may experience extreme physical withdrawal symptoms. If this occurs, it is most certainly advisable to consult with your professional healthcare specialist.

Habit Substitution Approach
Many specialists relating to the field of addictive behaviours now understand that for many of us, self restraint alone is just not enough to keep us focussed on task when it comes to quitting an unhealthy habit. It has been determined that for successful outcomes we should find a new focus that is some what more enticing, more compelling than the unhealthy habit, in an attempt to shift our interest and energy to a new style of living. This substituting approach works by replacing the undesirable unhealthy habit with a new healthier lifestyle change. Basically you make the decision to answer the call of your old unhealthy habit with a new healthier behaviour.

The theory here is that for example, if you are on a quest to quit smoking, you may focus more on chewing sugarless gum, liquorice or herbal supplements like ginseng and valerian. Individuals concentrating on distancing themselves from alcoholic beverages may choose to focus more on natural fruit flavoured soda, healthy mocktails or carbonated mineral water instead. Those who may be addressing their unhealthy eating habits may decisively fill the pantry and fridge with small portion snack ready sliced fruits and veggies to replace the usual unhealthy snack type food sources. These healthy substitutions provide your brain with a way to accommodate existing prompts without falling back into the rut of entertaining unhealthy habits.

This substituting approach is not about distracting yourself with a collection of new behaviours, although it is a bonus if your new replacements habits are to be things you wanted included as part of your new lifestyle change. In this narrow context, the replacement behaviour is a new single response to an old mental prompt or trigger. This substituting behaviour is most effective when used immediately upon quitting the old unhealthy habit. You may choose to introduce this same behaviour as part of a relapse prevention plan in the event that you are experiencing a particularly challenging time. The benefits of a substitution approach is that it allows you to respond to mental prompts or triggers, thereby relieving anxiety and giving you a sense of being in control.

The risk of the habit substitution approach is that you may find yourself exchanging one unhealthy habit for another. Habit substitution often works well in conjunction with the cold turkey approach, allowing you to shift your focus to something else while your mind and body adjust to the deficiency.

Gradual Reduction Approach
If you have finally decided that a regular lifestyle activity is becoming unhealthy and needs to cease in order for you to get back your health, or gain better health, then doing less of this activity you would think is surely going to reduce harm. This is the foundation of the gradual reduction approach, put simply it is merely cutting back on an old unhealthy habit. Some individuals believe that gradually reducing is very similar to undoing the unhealthy habit, rolling back the undesirable habits entrenchment until it finally ceases to exist.

The gradual reduction approach will be most efficient if you establish a measurable decline over a particular period of time. For example, if you are on a quest to quit smoking, you must first determine how frequently you smoke, and how many cigarettes in total you currently smoke. It would be necessary to calculate the rate at which you would have to reduce your smoking to be cigarette free in like four weeks, and then stick to the plan without exception. You may find it of assistance when using the gradual reduction approach to construct a chart so you can keep track or account for each days activities, in the event of the habit reduction being cigarettes, you could just limit the amount you carry each day or put them in a container.

The advantage of the taper approach is that it allows you to wean yourself from the unhealthy habit which may be less nerve racking than going cold turkey. The risk of gradual reduction is that you may prolong the relationship with the old unhealthy habit, teasing every last bit from it before finally letting go.

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