Breaking Unhealthy Habits

Breaking Unhealthy Habits

Replacing bad habits with healthy new ones helps people defend against and recover from addiction and mental health issues

Genetic heritage plays a major role in addiction and mental health issues, but environmental and behavioral factors can equally contribute to such disorders. In particular, unhealthy habits help foster an environment that can motivate substance abuse or initiate/accelerate a mental health problem. Bad habits can manifest in a variety of different ways, including the following:

  • Physical acts like smoking, unhealthy eating, binge drinking and social withdrawal
  • Mental habits like pessimism, denial, rationalizations and compartmentalizing
  • Behaviors like avoidance, displacement, procrastination and passive-aggression
  • Emotional patterns like wallowing, negativity and unchecked anger and stress

Underlying issues often contribute to both bad habits and substance abuse. For example, a person with unresolved trauma might compartmentalize, avoid, displace, wallow and abuse sedatives like Xanax as a way to suppress emotional pain and anxiety. To improve all areas of health and life, individuals need to address underlying issues, break bad habits and develop healthier coping mechanisms. If an addiction developed, transforming habits for the positive is a key step in recovery and an essential defense against relapse.

Identify Unhealthy Habits

The first step toward breaking unhealthy habits is to identify them. Working with therapists in group and individual settings is arguably the best way to identify and analyze habitual patterns, but individuals can take several beneficial actions on their own, including the following:

  • Cultivate a mental state that strives to be more self-aware and cognizant
  • Utilize a journal to track behavioral patterns and their consequences
  • Keep track of anger/stress triggers, their causes and potential response options
  • Make a list of personal goals and potential paths for achieving them
  • Make another list of bad habits and how they might inhibit reaching these goals
  • Challenge automatic mental and emotional responses to common life situations
  • Consider healthier and more positive responses to the same situations
  • Watch for signs of mania, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues

Unhealthy habits often co-occur with other negative behaviors, which then reinforce or compensate for others. For example, a person might make a habit of denying problems that are themselves other unhealthy habits. Likewise, a person who socially withdraws might engage in persistent pessimism, Xanax abuse and avoiding uncomfortable situations. When identifying unhealthy habits, it helps to consider how the various behaviors interact and potentially aggravate each other.

Break Unhealthy Habits

As individuals identify unhealthy habits, the next step is to break them. Several potential actions can help, including the following:

  • Request a physical and mental health assessment to screen for possible issues
  • Utilize a therapist to work through issues and craft strategies for healthier habits
  • Tackle contributing issues like past trauma, chronic pain and mental health disorders
  • Join local groups that provide social and practical support for breaking certain habits
  • Develop strategies to avoid cues that tend to trigger unhealthy habits and behaviors
  • Increase structure and routine in daily life to minimize negative influences and conduct
  • Learn to avoid knee-jerk automatic responses to situations, comments and people

These steps can help reduce unhealthy behaviors and patterns, but one of the most effective ways to break bad habits is to develop and cultivate healthier habits and coping mechanisms.

Promote Healthy New Habits

In 1996, the Addiction journal argued that coping skills are a key indicator of recovery outcomes, and poor skills often increase one’s risk of relapse. The focus of the study was substance abuse, but the importance of coping skills applies to many areas of life, and healthy habits often overlap as positive coping mechanisms. Furthermore, positivity in general has numerous health benefits such nerve connection growth, an immune system boost, increased energy levels and improvements in motivation and self-confidence.

Several habits help promote health and positive coping, including the following:

  • Pursue positive personal goals by breaking them down into small, achievable steps
  • Create a list of hobbies that spark your interest and start to explore them
  • Participate in yoga, Tai Chi, group fitness, meditation and other holistic pursuits
  • Volunteer to provide help with a worthy cause, local charity or positive organization
  • Assist friends and loved ones in pursuing their own positive hobbies and interests
  • Make a point to recognize one thing each day for which to be grateful
  • Consider positive interpretations, responses and outcomes first in all situations
  • Talk about struggles with loved ones or a therapist rather than holding it all inside
  • Host or participate in social gatherings based around a positive theme or activity
  • Keep a journal to help identify bad habits, also provide a positive outlet for venting and self-reflection

Back in 1986, The Arts in Psychotherapy journal highlighted the benefits of expressive art therapies in addiction recovery, and countless studies since have identified benefits from adventure sports, equine interactions, drum circles and other forms of therapeutic expression. Painting, for example, might help certain people express feelings, memories or emotions that they might struggle to articulate verbally. Talk therapies are an invaluable resource, but individuals might also consider alternative therapies like these that utilize hobbies and activities to promote overall health.

Likewise, recovering addicts in particular should prioritize exercise if physically able. Addiction is a disease that targets the mesolimbic system in the brain, and WebMD explained in 2014 that exercise increases the production of natural peptides like endorphins that can accelerate healing in the dopaminergic pathways and reduce symptoms of depression and other disorders.

Addiction and Mental Health Help

Addiction and mental health treatment targets issues like unhealthy habits and behaviors, but professional help involves numerous other therapies and strategies that promote a comprehensive recovery. If you have questions about treatment methods and options, our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to help. We can even check health insurance policies for treatment benefits. Our helpline is toll-free, so please call now.

Are you ready to seek treatment?

If you are ready to beat a Xanax addiction and start a new life in recovery then we can help. We have admission counselors standing by 24 hours a day to take your email, live chat request, or phone call to get you in the addiction treatment center that best fits your unique & specific needs.