What is a Habit?
A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary. Changing a habit requires becoming aware of the habit and the feelings that both trigger it and that result when the habit loop (trigger, response, reward) is followed. Such awareness can be the first crucial step in moving toward establishing healthier habits.
Creating a New Habit
In most cases, habits cannot simply be stopped. They must be replaced. In other words, if you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine (i.e., response and/or reward). If you don’t, the habit will probably return and often worsen.
For example, say you want to start exercising when you get home from work instead of sitting in front of the television and eating potato chips for an hour. Instead of just dropping your keys and bag on the counter, grabbing the chips, and plopping in your recliner, keep moving. In other words, don’t sit down. Go put on our workout clothes and keep moving for that hour. Replace the old activity (i.e., sitting down right away) with a new one (i.e., keep moving).
Or, say you want to stop eating junk food. Consider that if there is junk food in the house, it’s much easier to eat it, so simply not having it in the house may result in eating less of it. Unfortunately, not having junk food in the house likely won’t stop the habit for the long term. You’ll probably give in at some point and end up running to the store hungry, which is never a good idea. So, instead of just eliminating the junk food at home, replace it with healthier options that you enjoy. Eventually, your craving for unhealthy food will be redirected toward the healthy replacements. Replace the old activity (i.e., eating junk food) with a new one (i.e., eating healthy food).
Creating a new habit is not just about altering the routine though. It’s also about identifying and even confronting the emotions associated with the habit. There are a lot of resources for tackling habits in this way, and many of them are extremely helpful. Sometimes, professional help is also needed for identifying and changing habit loops.
Scripture offers help for identifying, confronting, and changing habits too. For Christian, focusing on what God says – and having his words ready at all times – can make all the difference in overcoming unhealthy habits by establishing new, healthier ones.
Consider the following Bible verses as examples.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
“Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18)
Pleasing God can provide the motivation needed to finally overcome unhealthy habits. Focusing on becoming healthier physically, mentally and spiritually in order to be better able to be used by God helps reprogram thinking that holds us back.
Consider how verses like these might become part of the habit loop and can serve as both response and reward for overcoming bad habits and establishing new and better ones.