Changing a Bad Habit

By David Spero | October 3, 2007 10:14 am

Well, friends, I need your help. I’ve got two bad habits I really need to change.

Ironic, isn’t it? I’ve been making a living for years helping people change their habits. I probably know more than almost anyone about what helps people change and what stops them. But right now, I’m stuck.

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You’ll laugh when you hear what the habits are. I’m addicted to reading bad political news on the Internet and playing computer games like Hearts. This probably doesn’t sound too bad, I know. But when you have a nervous system illness[1] like I do, this mindless mental activity is like a person with emphysema smoking two packs of cigarettes, or someone with diabetes having a loaf-a-day French bread habit. It increases my symptoms; I think it may even damage the nerves more.

If I were a cigarette smoker[2] coming to myself for advice, here’s what I would suggest:

So why haven’t I applied my own advice?

It’s difficult to change my environment, because the games and Internet are right on my computer, and I work on the computer eight hours a day. Avoiding triggers is hard for the same reason, but perhaps I could think more about what the triggers actually are. Maybe there are thoughts or feelings that drive my behavior. I have lined up some substitute habits: listening to music, eating a snack, doing some stretches. But I don’t always do them. Maybe I need better ones.

That leaves “making a plan,” and “enlisting help,” and maybe learning more about my triggers. So, help me out. What experience have you had with changing bad habits or helping other people change? What changes are you working on now? What do you think might be getting in my way? Should I see a therapist or addiction counselor? Any ideas or advice will be appreciated.

Endnotes:
  1. nervous system illness: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_sclerosis
  2. smoker: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_13X_Guide_for_Quitting_Smoking.asp
  3. this is controversial: http://www.enhancedhealing.com/articles/view.php?article=168

Source URL: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/changing-a-bad-habit/


David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 32 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 25 years. He is author of two books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), and Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis – Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006). He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Arthritis Self-Management magazines. He is a project director with New Health Partnerships: Improving care by Engaging Patients, a project of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

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