A habit is like scratching an itch. The only way to permanently give up scratching, is to remove the itch. It is impossible simply to discard habits altogether, unless and until we have transcended the underlying needs which habits fulfil. Until then, the most effective way to conquer a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit.
One of the best habits we can cultivate, is to meditate for one minute or so – long enough to take stock of ourselves while drawing a few deep breaths – prior to engaging in any activity, especially a habit we have identified as in need of transformation. During this minute, project yourself forward to see the effects of what you are about to do – whether you will be better off or worse off. Then choose and pursue the option which will result in you feeling better about yourself.
We are most likely to indulge our bad habits in moments of unawareness and lack of control. Unawareness is a form of darkness. Meditation is self-awareness. When we meditate, even for a few moments, we heighten and intensify our awareness, like bringing a light into a dark room. Once a light is shining, the dark room of our unawareness is illumined, and immediately we see more clearly the consequences of indulging our bad habits. The upside – the allure of indulging our bad habit – loses its appeal when it is set against the downside – the damage, distress or unhappiness we can see this habit will cause us. This light and clarity comes with the strength to overcome the temptation, and the confidence to discard the bad habit for good.
Even short periods of meditation enable us to direct and control our habits, instead of our habits controlling us.