The bad habits syndrome

We often find people addicted to certain bad habits, so much so that their actions become involuntary. Their minds are captivated by the enjoyment they derive from these habits, inspite of being well aware of the dangerous ill effects and possibility of death. Habits such as cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and drug usage often begin during the teenage or adult years as an adventurous experiment or a harmless trial. However, over time, they are transformed into serious addictions, due to consistent usage and inability to control the mind.
Bad habits such as smoking and drinking have unfathomable consequences, not only on the individual’s health, but also on his family and social life. The situation worsens even further for people in their golden years. Ageing, as it is, brings a host of ailments and increased risk of terminal diseases. Substance addiction significantly reduces the immunity of senile people, and presents an open invitation to diseases such as lung cancer, malnutrition, depression, brain damage, liver and kidney failure.

Smoking tobacco, nicotine, opium or other drugs directly affects the lungs. When the vaporized gas is inhaled, it enters the blood stream via the tiny bulbs in the lung known as alveoli. Within a few seconds, the drug is circulated throughout the body. It reaches the brain nerve endings resulting in an instant high. Due to the incomplete combustion occurring in the cigarette, irrespective of the substance used, carbon monoxide is generated, which is directly inhaled into the blood, thereby reducing its ability to carry life-giving oxygen. Similar to the dark black powder generated by a burning candle, a thick layer of soot is deposited within the tiny crevices of the alveoli, restricting proper flow of oxygen. Long-term smokers can suffer from lung cancer, strokes, heart attacks, blood diseases and brain damage.

Although alcohol consumption in moderation is claimed to have several health benefits, alcohol abuse has detrimental life threatening effects. As alcohol directly enters the stomach, it can disrupt the digestion process and halter absorption of essential nutrients. This can create folate, riboflavin, thiamine, selenium and vitamin B6 deficiencies, especially for the elderly, resulting in appetite loss, depression, joint pain and nerve disorders. Elderly people can suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, resulting in osteoporosis and brittle bones. Alcohol can severely damage liver and kidney functions and reduce brain activity. Moreover, it will render elderly medication useless.

The first step to alter any bad habit is to assess its upside as well as its downside, by being brutally honest and rational. Analyze what exactly the bad habit is providing you, such as temporary stress relief, acceptance within a group, short-term displacement from reality or a strong uncontrollable urge to continue. Then try to explore how the habit is adversely affecting all the realms of your life, such as health, family and friends, lifestyle, cognitive powers, emotions, behavior, self-esteem and confidence.

By understanding and accepting the harm that your habit is doing, you can then begin to take responsibility for your actions, and make a decision to eradicate the bad habit from your life once and for all. Since the bad habit is satisfying some of your needs, it is important to find a replacement for those needs; otherwise, you will never be able to break the bad habit. For example, if smoking acts as a stress reliever or an anti depressant, try taking a short walk or antidepressant tablets instead. If that is difficult, start with nicotine patches and gum.

Breaking a bad habit will be hard work at first, but with consistency and determination, you can turn your life around, bring positive healthy changes, and feel good about yourself and your achievements.

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