In Eric Barker's blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, he looks at the research that has gone into using mindfulness as a tool to assist in kicking both bad habits and addictions. This is a summary of his full article for those of you keen to start putting this into practice.
You only develop an addiction when there is some psychological motive that hasn’t been fulfilled for you.
We live in an age of anxiety. Addictions can soothe that anxiety. But they can also add to that anxiety.
“Don’t” Say “Can’t”
When you make the commitment to change, tell yourself, “I don’t do (the addictive behaviour)” as opposed to, “I can’t do (the addictive behaviour).”
Proximity Is Destiny
You can basically design the environment that you’re in to maximize your own well being. Ensure that temptation is far away.
You Don’t Break Habits. You Replace Them.
You replace the bad thing that you shouldn’t be doing with something good that you should be doing.
Bad Habits Are Coping, Not Fixing
You're feeling not-good. You want to feel good. So you do something that has made you feel good in the past. Trigger, Behavior, Reward. And after you do it enough times, it's a reflex. You're instinctively reacting, not thoughtfully responding.
Bad habits not only don't fix your problems, they often make them worse.
Use mindfulness to overcome:
Pay Attention. Don't Judge.
By really watching what you do, noticing how you feel, you can start to realize the bad habit isn't helping fix the problem. And that realization is key. Cravings fade with time.
Coping with the discomfort until the craving fades…
Use the four-step mindfulness process. RAIN: Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Note.
1 - Recognize
You're feeling stressed. You're headed toward habit-mode... Recognize it. (Without rationalizing it).
Realize what you're doing. You're trying to cope with some discomfort by engaging in your bad habit.
2 - Accept
Accept it. That doesn't mean "give in." Just accept that the craving is there. Don't beat yourself up for wanting it. Don't try to ignore it, or try to distract yourself, or fight it.
Acknowledge your acceptance in a small, active way. Nod your head or think "here we go."
3 - Investigate
Normally you deal with bad habits by trying to get away from them. Mindfulness does the exact opposite. Get curious. As the craving grows, notice how you feel. Specifically.
What does your body feel like? Don’t go looking. See what arises.
The key here is "non-identification." Remember: you are not your thoughts.
4 - Note
Make mental notes of your feelings. Use a single word or a short phrase to put a label on what you feel.
Follow it until it completely subsides. If you get distracted, return to the investigation by repeating the question, what does my body feel like right now?
Noting reduces the impact of emotions.
The craving will subside. It'll be hard at first, but with time it will go away just like every thought - good or bad - eventually does.