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Addiction Recovery

12 Natural Ways to Overcome Bad Habits And Addictions

Having an addiction or a bad habit does not make you a weak-willed person.

Addictions and bad habits are more common than you think. Some of these addictions and bad habits are a by-product of our society, but others are a self-destructive response to stress.

These may involve spending too much money, watching too much TV, drinking too much coffee, eating too much junk food, swearing, etc.

Although we understand that these habits are called “bad” for a reason, we can’t help but do it anyway.

This article will teach you how to overcome your bad habits and addictions on your own, naturally and using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Ready? Let’s get started!

This article contains affiliate links. That means, if you click through and make a purchase using an affiliate link, I will earn a small compensation at no extra cost to you.

Bad Habits vs. Addictions

What’s the Difference Between a Bad Habit and Addiction?

A bad habit is something we do without thinking. It is a learned association between a stimulus and a response manifested to achieve a goal.

An addiction, on the other hand, is more complex. Addictions manifest symptoms of intense craving and loss of impulse control. We may realize that it’s causing harm, and yet we keep doing it.

Any behavior that consistently and physiologically numbs emotions or trauma can develop into an addiction.

When Does A Bad Habit Become An Addiction?

A bad habit escalates to addiction when it begins to negatively impact your daily functioning, relationships, work, or school, and yet you feel like you can’t stop.

While no one intend to become an addict, most of us underestimate the power an addictive substance, and overestimate our power of self-control.

Do You Have an Addiction?

When we think of the words addiction, we we think of heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and other addictive substances.

We don’t usually think about addiction to sugar, for example, even though sugar is the most prevalent addictive substance in the world with approximately 75% of Americans eat excessive amounts of sugar, many of whom could be classified as having a sugar addiction.

The first step to free yourself from addictions is to first acknowledge these.

The following are some signs you might be having an addiction:

  • You feel that you don’t want to stop indulging in a particular substance (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, etc) or behavior (watching TV, Exercising, Working, shopping, gambling, etc).
  • Other people are expressing concerns about your substance use or behavior
  • You use your substance/behavior of choice when you are depressed, stressed out, or going through a difficult time.
  • You have tried to stop for a week but have been unable to do so
  • You have tried to use that substance or behavior less by switching to other alternatives. For instance, you might have started chewing gums to give up smoking.
  • Your substance use or behavior has created problems with friends and family.
  • You tend to plan your day around your substance use or behavior.
  • Your substance use or behavior has stopped being fun to use or do.
  • You usually end up consuming/doing more of your substance/behavior of choice than you intend to.
  • You are experiencing financial difficulty due to substance use.

12 Natural Therapies to Support Addiction Recovery

Overcoming an addiction involve more than the decision to quit.

To cope with the withdrawal period, you need to nourish your body, manage your anxiety, soothe your nerves, and find healthier ways to cope with life stressors.

This could be done through:

  • Therapy and counseling
  • Support groups
  • Meditation
  • Positive affirmations
  • Visualization
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Breathwork
  • Vitamins and other supplements
  • Aromatherapy
  • Light therapy
  • Color therapy

1. Therapy and Counseling

Overcoming an addiction requires understanding why you’ve come to develop an addiction in the first place.

Through therapy or counseling, you can address the underlying issues and make sure you don’t relapse.

Therapy or counseling will also help you learn alternative, healthy coping strategies to face life stressors.

A good therapist or counselor can give you emotional support while overcoming your addiction.


Talk to a therapist anytime, anywhere

Find a therapist from Online-therapy.com’s network. Your personal therapist will be by your side – from start to finish. Guiding you to a happier you through the sections, worksheets, messaging at any time and live sessions (available as video, voice only or text chat).

Plans start at $31,96 per week + 20% off your first month.


2. Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded by two alcoholics who helped each other get sober and who brought their message to help others overcome alcoholism and stay sober.

Since then AA has become a tremendously powerful support group that has helped millions of people around the world.

Support groups offer a safe, empathetic space for people to open up about their struggles with others who are in the same situation, face the same challenges, and suffer from the same pain.

Related: The Art of Validation: How to Comfort and Support Someone Without Giving Advice?

3. Meditation

Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of the brain, which promotes plasticity in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being (Cromie, “Meditation Found to Increase Brain Size”).

Related: Listen to Your Inner Guidance: A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation

4. Positive Affirmations

Addictions can negatively affect your self-esteem, and restoring your sense of self-esteem is vital to recovery.

When you begin to see yourself as love-worthy and strong enough to face life stressors, you will have no need for addictions.

One great way to ensure that is through positive affirmations. Many studies have shown the efficacy of positive affirmations.

Repeating positive thoughts to yourself, over and over again, will reprogram your thought patterns in a positive way.

Choose a list of affirmations and read it to yourself every morning and before drifting off to sleep at night. You can say them in front of a mirror, making eye contact with yourself. You can also imagine yourself saying them to a close friend, trying to convince him that they’re true.

The following are some examples:

  • I release the need to indulge in (addiction).
  • I choose to love and approve of myself.
  • I choose to see my self-worth.
  • I choose to enjoy each moment.
  • I am getting better. I am strong.
self-love affirmations mental health affirmations

5. Visualization

Visualization is another way to reprogram your thought patterns in a positive way.

Visualization Practice – Releasing Your Addiction

1. Get into a comfortable position

2. Start breathing deeply and slowly and feel your body as you release any tension in your muscles.

3. Once you feel relaxed, start imagining yourself releasing your addiction using symbolic methods. For example, visualize yourself holding a basket attached to a balloon. Imagine yourself putting your addiction and every negative thing associated with it in that balloon (guilt, sense of unworthiness, etc). Imagine yourself lifting the basket and letting it go. Watch it as it rises in the air.

Practicing visualization can also help you relax. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get at soothing yourself, whenever you start to feel stressed or anxious.

Visualization Practice – Soothing Yourself

1. Take a moment to breathe deeply and focus on your breath.

2. Imagine yourself in the most beautiful place possible —a beach, forest, a river, or whatever calms you and soothes you. Imagine as much detail as possible and engage each one of your senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell).

You can also one of the guided visualization that are available online.

6. Journaling

Journaling is a great way to manage difficult emotions and clear your mind. It can also be a safe place for you to bare your soul in and explore your feelings without judgment.

You can also use your journal as a tracking system for your addiction, by writing down the emotions and situations that trigger it so you can avoid or overcome these.

Writing Exercise

Learn more about your addiction by writing to it.

Using your right hand, write down how this addiction is affecting you. Then, using your left hand, have your addiction “write back to you.” You can use the following questions to understand more about your addiction:

  • Why is it with you?
  • What function does it serve in your life? Is it keeping you from having to deal with difficult emotions?
  • What was going on in the period prior to the addiction?
  • If you persist in this addiction, what are the top three worst consequences?
  • If you give up this addiction, what can you gain?
  • What do you want my life to look like a year from now? What do you need to do to get there?
  • What can you learn from this experience?

Get Your Free Journaling Prompts

7. Breathwork

How we breathe can have a great impact on our emotional and physical health.

Taking a few deep, slow breaths, has been shown to calm our intense emotions and reverse hyperventilation, which makes it a great tool to manage difficult emotions.

 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” helps reduce anxiety. Some even claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.

1. Lie on the floor and place a pillow under your knees.

2. Place your hands on your stomach, with your fingers gently laced just above your navel.

3. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four and feel your abdomen as it raises.

4. Hold your breath to a count of seven

5. Exhale through your mouth to a count of eight

8. Exercise and Yoga

Exercise boosts circulation, improves digestion, and reduces depression and anxiety.

Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, which can relieve pain and boost mood.

Try activities, such as dancing, hiking, biking, or simply going for a walk around the neighborhood for thirty minutes every day.

Studies show that yoga can be an effective exercise to help overcome addictions like smoking.

Specific yoga poses for overcoming addiction include those that help detoxify the liver, like the Locust, the Plow, the Shoulder Stand, and the Fish Pose.

9. Nutrition

The right nutrition can help correct nutritional deficiencies, and cleanse your body.

Start eating a high-fiber diet, and drinking plenty of fluids to promote good elimination.

Make sure your food is unprocessed and chemical-free.

Protein is proven to minimize addiction cravings. Good protein sources include organic, free-range poultry, eggs, and fish, yogurt, and other dairy products, nuts, seeds (like chia, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower), legumes, tofu, and even kale.

Nuts and seeds also contain essential fatty acids, which help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

10. Aromatherapy

Because of the close proximity of our nasal cavities to our brain, various smells can open neural pathways and boost our mood.

This makes aromatherapy a great way to help you overcome addictions.

Aromatherapy employs essential oils – the powerful essences of plants.

These essential oils can also have many healing properties.

You can use essential oils by adding 5 to 10 drops to a warm bath, or diluting a few drops in vegetable oil for massage, or even opening a bottle and inhaling the aroma throughout the day.

Caution: Essential oils should not be applied undiluted to the skin, or put near the eyes.

Related: 10 Essential Oils to Aid in Alcohol Detox

11. Light Therapy

Natural light can aid in detoxification.

For neurological benefits, the light must indirectly enter your eyes by spending an hour a day outdoors before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m.

Unless the weather is extremely sunny, it’s best not to wear sunglasses, prescription glasses, or contact lenses to obtain a healthy dose of full-spectrum light.

If you can’t spend time outdoors, open a door or window so that you’ll have some natural light.

12. Color Therapy

Colors can have a great impact on our mood.

The color blue, for example, can help you relax. Green has a balancing and calming effect. These two colors can be helpful in overcoming addictions.

To benefit from the healing properties of colors, surround yourself with them:

  • Wear clothing in blue and green.
  • Visualize yourself breathing in healing blue and green lights.
  • Spend time in green spaces and under blue skies, or get some houseplants.

Lifestyle Changes to Support Addiction Recovery

An addiction develops not just because of the chemical dependency, but also because of psychological needs.

Addictions usually serve a function: they fulfill emotional voids, and/or numb difficult emotions and painful traumas.

Overcoming addictions will require addressing these underlying issues and cultivating a good relationship with yourself and with others.

Begin by taking a long, hard look at your relationships with family and friends. Let go of negative or toxic ones, and work on improving supportive ones.

10 Tips For Reaching Out And Connecting With Other People

  1. Talk to a safe person about your feelings.
  2. Help someone else by volunteering.
  3. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  4. Accompany someone to the movies, or a concert.
  5. Call or email an old friend.
  6. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  7. Schedule a weekly dinner/lunch date.
  8. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a club.
  9. Develop empathy by listening, observing, learning, and asking questions. Be curious.
  10. Open up and let safe see a part of who you are.

Related: Overcoming Addiction: How to Get Any Kind of Addiction Under Control for Good?

How to Overcome Bad Habits and Addictions Using CBT?

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBT?

In a nutshell, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy proposes that dysfunctional thinking, which in turns influences a person’s emotions and behavior, is at the root of all psychological problems.

When individuals change their thinking into a more realistic and positive way, they experience a decrease in negative emotions and maladaptive behavior.

For example, if you fail a test, you might have an “automatic thought”, an idea that seems to pop up in your mind: “I’m stupid, I can’t do anything right.” This thought leads to a particular reaction – feeling sad (emotion) and retreating or giving up (behavior).

CBT help you become aware of your dysfunctional thinking by examining the validity of your thoughts. In the example above, you’ll conclude that you’re overgeneralizing and that, in fact, you still do many things well.

Looking at your experience from a new perspective can help you think more positively.

CBT can help you break bad habits and addictions, and regain control over yourself and your life.

Below are some common addictions and bad habits and how to use CBT techniques to break them:

#1. Sugar Addiction

Sugar is one of the least recognized addictions but also one of the hardest to overcome.

Sugar works just like an addictive drug—it stimulates the production of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters, and when the effect wears off, you’re left wanting more.

CBT and Sugar Addiction

1. Start keeping a food journal where you write down everything you eat and drink throughout the day. This can help you become more aware of just how much sugar you’re consuming.

2. When shopping, read labels. Look for words ending in “ose,” like fructose, dextrose, glucose, lactose, sucrose, and maltose, and look for syrups and juices.

Related: Secret Sugars: The 56 Different Names for Sugar

3. Cut back on your sugar intake gradually to avoid shocking your system.

  • Start eating less pasta and bread made from white flour and start eating more whole grains.
  • Replace high-sugar snacks with fruits or nuts.

Reducing your sugar intake may be accompanied by mood swings and low energy, but as you get used to less sugar intake, you’ll again feel energized, alert, and healthier.

#2. Stress Eating

Stress is a part of our daily life.

Most common ways to help you de-stress include exercising, journaling, meditating, doing something you love like gardening, baking, painting, etc.

Some people fall into a bad habit to relieve their stress by eating, often unhealthy food. This is called “stress eating”, which refers to the compulsive desire to eat large amounts of unhealthy food (think of chocolate and junk food) whenever an individual feels anxious or stressed.

However, the relief is momentary and almost always leaves the individual feeling guilty or hating themselves in the aftermath.

CBT can help you break this habit by changing your response to triggers.

CBT and Stress Eating

Journaling

This one of the most common CBT technique in treating “stress eating”:

1. Identify what triggers your stress eating.

2. Avoid these triggers at all cost.

3. Keep a food journal where you keep track of your diet and record everything you eat and what triggered it.

4. Regularly read this journal and identify your patterns of problematic eating and figure out how to overcome them.

For example, if you tend to stress eat when you are bored, keep yourself busy by finding a new interest (painting, writing, exercising, etc).

If you stress eat after a long day at work, find other ways to decompress (drink some tea, do yoga, take a walk, etc).

If you stress eat when you’re feeling down, look for better outlets to deal with your sadness (talk to a friend, spend time with your pet, journal how you feel, cry it out, etc).

5. Find alternative ways to comfort and soothe yourself, such as taking a warm bubble bath, reading a great novel, or walking in a beautiful environment.

6. Start using Mindfulness meditation and guided visualization to reduce stress.

7. Exercise is essential to giving up stress eating. Exercise stimulates endorphin production but also , improves digestion and elimination and boosts energy levels.


Talk to a therapist anytime, anywhere

Find a therapist from Online-therapy.com’s network. Your personal therapist will be by your side – from start to finish. Guiding you to a happier you through the sections, worksheets, messaging at any time and live sessions (available as video, voice only or text chat).

Plans start at $31,96 per week + 20% off your first month.


#3. Smoking

The nicotine in cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other vaping products, and chewing tobacco is highly addictive, which makes smoking one of the hardest addictions to overcome.

CBT and Smoking

1. Think about situations in which you smoke. Do you tend to smoke when you’re bored or stressed, after a meal, with certain beverages, or in certain social situations?

2. Avoid these triggers as much as possible.

3. Substitute smoking for a better habit, like going for a walk after a meal, chewing sugar-free gum, drinking a glass of water, etc.

4. Set a smoke-free target date, and as you approach the target date, start cutting back on the number of cigarettes to smoke each day.

5. When you feel a craving for a cigarette, wait five extra minutes before smoking one. As you approach your smoke-free target date, increase your waiting time more and more.

6. Set certain hours of the day when you won’t smoke; for example, from 5 P.M. to 10 P.M.

7. Smoke only half of each cigarette.

8. Switch brands and make sure you don’t buy your favorite brand.

9. Find healthier ways to reduce stress, like exercise, meditation, deep breathing, etc.

ways to reduce stress (5)

#4. Watching Too Much TV

Watching TV might seem relaxing and enjoyable activity, but when it becomes an addiction, it can turn into an incredible waste of your time.

It’s okay to decompress after a long day and watch a few episodes of your favorite show, but if you find yourself mindlessly channel surfing and spending the day on your couch, then you might have a bad habit.

In one study, watching TV three hours a day has been proven to double their risk of premature death compared to those who watch less, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

If you’re struggling to give up your bad habit of watching too much TV, CBT can help you quit that habit.

CBT and Watching Too Much TV

1. Set a reasonable amount of time for TV and stick to it.

2. Schedule activities for yourself to do instead of watching TV.

3. With time, reduce your time in front of the TV and do more and more of the other healthy activities.

4. Every time you complete any of the other activities, reward yourself with something other than watching TV. This will help you associate the positive feelings you get from your rewards with not watching TV.

#5. Procrastinating

Everyone struggled with procrastination at some point in their life, leaving things at the very last minute.

Even though people who procrastinate are trying to distract themselves, deep down, they’re feeling bad and guilty.

When procrastination becomes a habit, it negatively affects your performance and productivity, and increases your stress levels and sense of guilt over time.

Procrastination is a self-defeating behavior that might give you short-term benefits, but at a pricier long-term cost.

So why do so many of us procrastinate?

Some people procrastinate is because they wrongly believe it to be a form of “self-care”. Others do it because of a deep-seated fear of failing to do the task that we’re supposed to do.

CBT and Procrastination

Because there are different reasons why people procrastinate, there are also different ways to help you stop procrastinating. These ways include the following:

Practice positive self-talk – Acknowledge that the task is hard, but tell yourself that you still can do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t need to worry whether you’re going to finish it on time, just begin.

Develop your skills – If you think you won’t be able to do it, try working on your skills. This will boost your self-confidence and motivate you to get things done.

#6. Choosing Bad Partners/Relationships

A bad relationship is the kind of relationship where you don’t feel heard or valued and respected. You end up feeling heartbroken and blaming yourself for being so stupid.

Author Stephen Chbosky once wrote, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Oftentimes choosing the wrong partner stems from your self-defeating ways and deep-held negative beliefs.

CBT can help you change your negative beliefs by building self-esteem and developing a more positive relationship with yourself first through journaling, positive self-talk, and mindfulness training.

CBT and Choosing Bad Partners/Relationships

1. Write down at least five things you love about yourself whether – personality traits or physical features.

2. Start using positive affirmations especially when you’re feeling down, such as “I’m strong, I can get through this,” or, “I’m worthy, I love myself.”

3. Start practicing self-care by spending some time with yourself doing things you enjoy. Learn to enjoy your own company.

4. Meditate while recalling your day. Try to identify the emotions you felt and evaluate how reasonable or justified they are.

5. If you make a mistake or embarrass yourself, forgive yourself.

By practicing self-love, you’ll realize that you deserve love and you’ll only attract healthy, loving relationships. You won’t settle for less.

How to Beat Any Addiction And Bad Habit On Your Own Using CBT?

Any activity that you use to alter your mood and escape your difficult emotions has the potential to become an addiction.

These activities include, stress eating, watching TV, shopping, playing video games, browsing social media, biting your nails, picking at your skin, etc.

These activities become addicting when we rely on them to make ourselves feel better rather than dealing with our difficult emotions.

1. Choose a bad habit or addiction you wish to overcome and make a list of the reasons why you should stop doing it. Put that list where you can read it often (on a mirror, in your wallet, above your desk, on your phone, etc)

2. Develop a strategy to remind yourself to stop each time you catch yourself indulging in the habit. Try saying Stop! Aloud or under your breath.

3. Find healthier ways to deal with stress and learn how to manage your difficult emotions.

How to Make It through the Withdrawal Period?

Quitting an addiction is usually followed by a withdrawal period. Some people experience few or no withdrawal symptoms, while others struggle through this period.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms involve more than enduring cravings for a particular substance or activity. It can also manifest in irritable, or depressed mood.

Physical symptoms may include headaches, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, heart palpitations, difficulty in breathing, tremors.

Symptoms of withdrawal can be a real awakening, showing you how dependent your body has become on that chemical substance.

Gradually stopping your addiction can be safer and easier when it comes to managing withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does Withdrawal Period Last?

Symptoms of withdrawal usually begin twenty-four to seventy-two hours after the last dose of a substance.

The most dramatic symptoms would usually lessen after five to seven days, but withdrawal period can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.

Here are a few ways to help you make it through withdrawal period:

1. Detoxify Both Body And Mind

Start drinking teas and plenty of pure water, and eating food that will help detoxify your body, such as asparagus, broccoli, grapefruit, avocado, kale, artichokes, apples, cabbage.

2. Seek Emotional Support

Be open with people you care about. Let them know that you’re going through a withdrawal period and that any irritability and changeable mood will be temporary.

Ask for their help through this tough time.

When to Seek Professional Help?

If you have a history of heart problems, grand mal seizures, psychiatric problems, or if you have a serious addiction to alcohol, or opioids, you should undertake the detoxification process in controlled medical environment.

Related: State-Funded Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers Near Me

3. Journaling

Journaling can be very helpful when dealing with cravings. Describe your emotions and physical sensations.

If you’re experiencing anxiety, write down your anxious thoughts and try challenging them.

Related: 10 Powerful Techniques To Control Your Negative Thoughts

4. Exercise

Exercise enhances endorphin release and boosts your mood.

During the initial withdrawal period it is recommended to try light, relaxing exercises, such as stretching, yoga, along with deep-breathing exercises.

5. Skin Brushing

Dry-brushing the skin helps detoxify the body by boosting circulation and improving lymphatic flow. You’ll also end up with soft, healthy skin as a side benefit.

Use a soft vegetable-fiber brush before you bathe and gently brush the skin in a circular motion, starting with your feet and working your way up.

6. Hydrotherapy

Soaking in a warm bath to which three Epsom salts have been added also helps detoxify your system (The Mayo Clinic recommends adults use 2 cups of Epsom salt per gallon of warm water).

Sauna baths and steam baths also help speed the release of toxic substances through sweating.

Emotional Wellness Toolbox (Mental Health Awareness Month)

Conclusion

Habits like watching too much TV, stress eating, procrastination, and choosing bad relationships might not seem like the most pressing of psychological problems, but their effect on your life can be significant.

This is why you need to address these bad habits and work on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

FAQ

Why Addiction Happens?

Some people find themselves frequently indulging in things they know are harmful, while other people are able to exercise self-control without struggling.

Although the odds of addiction are elevated in those who are compulsive, there is no singular “addictive personality.”

Factors, such as genetics, temperament, mental illnesses, environment and people’s own reactions to it, also contribute to the odds of developing addictions.

But the main factor in developing an addiction is the inability to self-regulate—that is, to manage emotions and control impulses.

How Addictive Substances Influence Your Mood?

Some addictive substances mimic the effect of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters, crossing the blood-brain barrier into the brain, while other addictive substances stimulate the production and transmission of neurotransmitters to influence mood.

How Can Parents Protect Their Children From Developing Drug Addiction?

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) research shows that parents can protect their children from developing drug addiction later on in their life by developing a strong bond with their children, setting clear limits, and being involved in their children’s lives.

It is also important to ensure that children are adequately loved and able to express and self-regulate their emotions.

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Resources

  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: The 21 Day CBT Workbook for Overcoming Fear, Anxiety And Depression, © 2019 by Jacob Greene. All rights reserved.
  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Addiction-Free Naturally: Liberating Yourself from Sugar, Caffeine, Food Addictions, Tobacco, Alcohol, and Prescription Drugs, © 2001 by Brigitte Mars. All rights reserved.
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