How Can I Change Habits?

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The stereotype answer is that habits cannot be changed as they are never eradicated. However, if we are able to harmonize our mind and if there is clarity of mind then many of the habits which are formed in life can be effectively managed. Habits come up in order to fill a vacuum that we feel in ourselves. Why do people resort to alcohol, to different drugs? Just to get high? No. There is a compulsion: avoiding something, rejecting something, feeling the vacuum of something. Something is not correct and people don’t know how to deal with it, they want to forget it, they want to move into some other zone. So they resort to different substances, which alter the state of their nerves, brain, thinking, behaving and for the duration of inebriation, they live a different mind. A habit is actually our response to a situation which we are not able to deal with properly, positively, correctly, constructively.

From the yogic perspective, if the mind is kept light, happy and luminous, habits can easily be managed. If the mind goes into the dark space of self-pity, self-anxiety, then habits begin to form to escape from the condition of anxiety and pity. Remaining positive, is one way to overcome the detrimental habits of life. Connecting with the strength of the mind is another way to deal with habits, for in a situation where a habit is projecting itself, the mind becomes weak. If the mind is strong the habit can be altered and changed. There are people with a strong mind who can take a decision, ‘From today I won’t smoke’, and then they don’t even think about it for they have that mind and nature. There are people who plan on leaving the habit of smoking but their hands always go to pick up a cigarette. Although the mind has taken a decision, ‘No’, the hands and the senses still keep on going there: one more, one final one, one last one. That is lack of willpower also.

The weakened state of mind becomes the repository for destructive habits, and strength of mind makes it possible to cultivate the different positive qualities which also become habits. Sensorial habits are smoking, drinking, drugging, and so on. A mental habit begins with craving: ‘I need that’. If this ‘I need that idea’ can be changed into something more constructive and positive, then a destructive habit will not emerge. The positivity and strength will wean you away from your destructive habits.

30 September 2018, Ganga Darshan, Munger