One of the best teachings I have received about habits and their modification says: “The first step in changing a habit is to replace it with another.” In this clear case, the instruction referred to quitting a harmful habit for another good one, or at least one that was not as harmful as the previous one. This allows the displacement of energy that was used in one activity to another. It is something transitory and in a way it comes to compensate for a deficiency and not to resolve it or transcend it, however it is a good beginning of the transformation.
Then, each time the compulsion or the impulse towards the realization of that habit that I want to give up arises, I immediately start the new behavior with which I intend to replace it. You will remember the example given in “The Russian Pilgrim” where an alcoholic practiced this. Every time he wanted to drink, he read the Gospels and in a short time the urge to drink had passed. And this serves as an example that we can adapt to our own life. This immediate replacement of one behavior for another shows us that vices have a “peak of the wave” and that then it diminishes by itself. It is necessary to go through this kind of “critical moment”, until one can intentionally overcome the stimulus that presses us with strong desire. Habits are formed by simple repetition.
You have to repeat the new behavior you want to install each time the desire for the previous habit appears. In a few days we will feel stronger, increasingly able to overcome the difficult moment. Later, we get used to going through the critical moment without replacing the behavior. We simply remain attentive to this desire that arises with force to repeat some behavior and when observing what happens in some way we differentiate ourselves, we distance ourselves and a space appears that gives some margin of freedom. So first replace, then learn to go through and while this happens, understand what is hidden behind the habit.
A harmful habit is a symptom, it has arisen in response to certain internal and external situations. In a way it served as an analgesic, it was like an anesthetic for the pain that was there at that time. But you cannot live on painkillers, you have to discover and solve the origin of the pain. In very general terms, a life in which we do not find meaning and where we do not often perceive the presence of God in the everyday is a breeding ground for a multitude of harmful habits. The integral answer lies in the sacralization of life. Or, rather, to attend to the sacred that is shown in passing.
But this cannot be imposed, it must be experienced. For this, it is necessary to cultivate attention and train the look. The gaze (towards where we direct the perception) can also get used to and get into the habit of looking for God in everything and everything. A fraternal hug to all invoking the Holy Name of Jesus.