Overcome Soft Addictions: Habits That Keep Us From Our Goals

Since 2014-08-18

This articles discusses how to identify your bad habits and how to change them.

We are witnessing a growing trend of addictions to what I would like to call demoralising desires and temporary pleasures.

We know of our purpose, we know of our destination — so why do we continue to live for the dunya (this world, as opposed to the Hereafter) as if it were our only goal and the real essence of our existence?

This life is but a preparation for the next. We must focus on our destination and choose our paths wisely.

{وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ}  

‘Translation’ {And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me} [Adh-Dhariyat:56]. 

Yet we find ourselves sitting in front of televisions, computer screens and game consoles, investing our precious time in unprofitable matters, and in many cases, haram exposure. We waste away our wealth in masking our insecurities and fulfilling a moment’s thrill for a lifetime of debt. We are even shamelessly falling deep into the culture of drugs and alcohol despite their clear forbiddance in the Qur’an!

These addictions are paralysing the progress of our Ummah (Islamic community), causing us to neglect our deen (religion) and preventing us from fulfilling our true goal as servants of Allah, Al-Hakam (The Judge).

Let us stop being an Ummah of ill habits. Let us change our course to a path that leads us to Allah , In sha Allah.

Addiction: An Islamic Perspective

The term addiction is most commonly understood with respect to a chemical association — the compulsive use and dependence on drugs, alcohol and nicotine.

While this does unfortunately exist in the Ummah and is something we most definitely should aim to cease, I want to speak more about those forgotten but most definitely dangerous addictions that we shall refer to as soft addictions.

Soft addictions are those seemingly harmless habits such as over-shopping, overeating, watching too much TV, endlessly surfing the Internet, procrastinating etc. that keep us from having the life we want.

"They cost us money, rob us of time, numb us from our feelings, mute our consciousness, and drain our energy. And we all have them". —Judith Wright, author of The Soft Addiction Solution

As Judith Wright described, soft addictions are those habits that keep us from the life we want. Surely, as Muslims we want Jannah (paradise) and seek the pleasure of Allah alone. These addictions, however, distract us from fulfilling our true purpose and goals in life. They have the dangerous potential to take us away from the pure path of Islam, and slowly guide us to a path that leads us to hell fire. May Allah  safeguard us.

From excessive use of the Internet, mobile phones and television to the addictions of pornography, food and shopping, behaviours such as these provide us with the opportunity for immediate satisfaction. But as we know, everything in this world is temporary.

While we might engage in these activities to pass time or escape reality, the satisfaction does not last and we want it again. The immediate satisfaction we gain from these acts can very quickly become a compulsive pursuit, and before we know it, we are falling sinfully into the hands of shaytan (Satan), attaching ourselves to the dunya and neglecting our Creator!

A Reminder of Our Purpose

Allah  reminds us many times in the Qur’an that this life is a test for us, that we were made to worship Him alone and that we will be questioned on the Day of Judgement. We should remind ourselves daily of the reality of death and judgement.

Ibn Mas’ud  narrated that the Prophet  said: «The feet of the son of Adam shall not move from before his Lord on the Day of Judgement, until he is asked about five things: about his life and what he did with it, about his youth and what he wore it out in, about his wealth and how he earned it and spent it upon, and what he did with what he knew» [Jami at-Tirmidhi].

We must protect ourselves from becoming servants to our desires, deceived by the world. We must learn to recognise the difference between the absolute and the contingent, the real and the fleeting.

The Real is gaining the pleasure of Allah, a pleasure that will transcend into the afterlife. The Fleeting is the attainment of self-pleasure, a pleasure that will remain contained in the illusions of this temporary world.

{وَلَلْءَاخِرَةُ خَيْرٌۭ لَّكَ مِنَ ٱلْأُولَىٰ . وَلَسَوْفَ يُعْطِيكَ رَبُّكَ فَتَرْضَىٰٓ }

‘Translation’ {And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world). And verily, your Lord will give you (all that is good) so that you shall be well-pleased} [Ad-Duhaa:4-5].

Changing For The Better

This life is but a preparation for the next. We must focus on our destination and choose our paths wisely. So let us recognise the growing problem of addictions within ourselves and our Ummah, and aim to change ourselves for the better, In sha Allah. Here I have broken down a simple 4 step plan to help you battle those addictions.

{يَوْمَ تَجِدُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَا عَمِلَتْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ مُحْضَرًا وَمَا عَمِلَتْ مِنْ سُوءٍ تَوَدُّ لَوْ أَنَّ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَهُ أَمَدًا بَعِيدًا}

‘Translation’ {On the Day when every person will be confronted with all the good he has done, and all the evil he has done, he will wish that there were a great distance between him and his evil} [Al-Imran:30].

The first step is very simple, I want you to keep a detailed journal for 1 week.

Look deeply into your daily routine and note down what you do and how much time you spend doing it. What did you do? When did you do it? Where were you? Who were you with?

The idea is to be very mindful of your day. The more detailed the entries, the better. At this stage, do not attempt to make any changes. You simply want to record your day to better understand your daily routine.

Now that you have your journal, it is time to reflect and refocus.

Take some time to read through your diary and highlight any bad habits or things that you would like to change in your day. It is all about identifying the need, or even the space for improvement, and most importantly recognising your soft addictions.

We cannot stop an addiction or bad habit until we recognise it to be a problem to begin with. Maybe you notice that you spend a lot of time playing video games or watching television. One may find one is engaging in haram activities such as watching pornography or smoking. However small or large they may be, make a list of all the bad habits you are engaging in. You may want to then categorise them to help you better organise your priorities.

Tip: Your priority should be first and foremost to eliminate anything that you do that is haram. Second are those activities you engage in the most often or most time-consuming that are not necessarily beneficial (your addictions). Finally, those habits that you would benefit from removing or replacing.

Once the bad habits and addictions are identified and categorised, we can begin to make a plan to tackle them productively. It can be a little overwhelming when you have a list of habits you want to change but no idea how to do it! So, here is a simple tool you could use to break it down into an effective plan.

Researchers have found that behind every habit, there is a neurological loop consisting of 3 parts: A routine, a cue and a reward. If we can identify these, we can better target and prevent bad habits.

  • The Routine is what you have already done in steps 1 and 2 above — identifying addictions or bad habits.
  • The Cue is what leads you to engage in the habit. By identifying this, you can be prepared for the habit or even avoid it.
  • The Reward is what you essentially gain from engaging in that habit. By identifying this, you can search for alternatives — healthier activities to replace the bad routine, one that will essentially give you the same reward.

So from the habits you listed in Step 2, think about the cue and reward behind each habit. You can use the handy table below to identify these 3 parts of your habit loop and then come up with a plan on how you can change, prevent or replace your habit. 

Tip: By replacing a bad habit with a healthier alternative that gives you the same reward, you are more likely to remain steadfast as you will not feel a sense of loss because what you seek is achieved through the healthier habit.

Work through your table one by one, do not overwhelm yourself with trying to change too much at once. Start with the first habit and only move to the next when you feel you are gaining more control over the first.

To successfully tackle your addictions, you must regularly, in fact, constantly remind yourself of your purpose and the reality of death and judgement. It is important to have daily reminders to help keep you focused and disciplined.

Personal Tip: I find the most effective reminders for me are attending regular Islamic classes or spending time in the company of pious and inspiring people. I also find leaving little motivational quotes on sticky labels around the house useful!

Whatever works for you — just do not forget to remind yourself!

Source: ProductiveMuslim
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