Breaking a Negative Habit

The etymological roots of the English word habit stem from an archaic word meaning clothing; attire. In Arabic, the term عادة stems from the root which means return; an action that one consistently returns to.

There a many traditions which discuss habits. Here are just a few: Imam Ali (a) said: "Habit is one's second nature," "A habit has power over every human," and "A habit is an enemy that one possesses." There are two types of habits, positive habits and negative habits.

Habits are formed gradually and must be broken gradually. The following are tips from the popular book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear coupled with advice from Ulema.

Law 1: Make it invisible.

  • Atomic Habits: Reduce exposure. Remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment.

  • Words of ulema: Refrain from entering sinful environments; refrain from triggers

Law 2: Make it unattractive

  • Atomic Habits: Reframe your mindset. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits.

  • Words of Ulema: Pay attention to the ugliness of the habit; pay attention to the punishment in the hereafter.

Law 3: Make it difficult

  • Atomic Habits: Increase friction. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits.

  • Words of Ulema: Try to refrain from solitude.

Law 4: Make it unsatisfying

  • Atomic Habits: Get an accountability partner. Ask someone to watch your behaviour; Create a habit contract. Make the costs of your bad habits public and painful.

  • Words of Ulema: The three M's: Musharatah, Muraqabah, Muhasibah

Law 5: Islamic advice

  • Words of Ulema: Obtain a positive habit to increase willpower; Seek help through Allah and the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

I will close with the words of Imam Ali (a): Changing a habit makes worship easier.

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