We’ve all got them. Those little pleasures we indulge in to treat ourselves for a job well done, to relieve stress when tensions are high, or for no particular reason at all except that we want them. Coffee, alcohol, tobacco, sugary drinks, high fat desserts, TV, video games (and many, many others). Done in moderation, these treats are just that, innocuous little pleasures. But when we lose our sense of proportion with these pleasures, when we indulge enough that our treats lead to a decline in physical or mental health, they can become something truly troubling. They become legitimate vices.
Does that ring a bell for you? Has some pleasure in your life begun to take over your life? If so, what can you do about it? From our point of view, there’s no such thing as breaking a bad habit or eliminating a vice. No, bad habits and vices must be replaced by something better.
Take coffee, for instance. You probably first started drinking it to get that easy burst of energy and sharper focus from the caffeine. Chances are, you didn’t even like the way it tasted the first time you had it. No, you drank it every day for the pick-me-up, grew familiar with the taste until you liked it, and eventually a whole morning ritual emerged. Now, you can’t imagine starting your day without it or getting through the day without at least two cups. You’re hooked. Coffee has become a vice.
Of course, everyone drinks coffee, right? No big deal. That depends. Coffee does raise blood pressure, increases heart rate, dehydrates the body, and causes gastric distress. This takes a toll, more so on some than others. If you’re someone who knows you need to cut back on coffee or get rid of it altogether, what then?
It’s simple, actually. Replace that bad habit with something better like tea. A cup of tea usually contains far less caffeine. Tea also involves many of the same trapping as coffee, which will help with the ritualized habit: it’s a hot beverage that will require preparation much like coffee.
How about smoking? We all know how addictive and deadly cigarettes are. Cancer, emphysema, etc., not to mention the stinky clothes and yellow teeth. Gross! If you’ve decided it’s time to free yourself from those death sticks, you’ll need more than willpower alone. In fact, quitting cold turkey proves to be one of the most difficult ways to do it. However, if you replace that vice with a healthier alternative, you’ll be well on your way.
No, we’re not talking about carrot sticks – like that ever worked! But you can switch to something like pen vapes, which mimic the process of smoking and even uses a cigarette-shaped device to do it. This way you’ll get a much lesser dose of nicotine to help you wean off the physical addition, and you’ll get it without the deadly (or gross) side effects of cigarettes.
What about all that screen-time watching TV? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with watching a bit of TV. However, that’s not how it usually goes. The average adult watches four hours a day. Four hours of passive, mindless viewing, usually accompanied with munching on delicious snacks. The name of the game here is to find something that can stand in for TV time while still offering entertainment. Reading would seem the obvious choice. Not only will a good book entertain, but it will usually educate as well. And it will do so in a manner that engages the brain and tests the mind. So turn off the TV, read a book (it’s always fun to revisit some old classics) and turn on that brain of yours! And if reading isn’t your style, try going outdoors for a bit and let nature entertain you. Take the family for a camping trip and see how great Mother Nature is for your mind and soul.
There you go. When it comes to those vices, quitting’s not the way to go. You have to find healthier alternatives to take their place. Do that, and you’ll find yourself living better, feeling better, and thinking better, too!