A habit is a repeated behaviour or tendency, something that we do often without realising it. Habits can aid our prosperity in life or contribute to our destruction. Habits, once formed, become so routine that they can be difficult to break and it is often said that they way to break old habits is to form new ones. Our habits contribute to many areas of our lives – our moods, our relationships, our career, finances and much more.
It is important to reflect on our lives and assess whether or not our habits are helping us or destroying us.
For me, I used to have many destructive habits that contributed to the depression I was experiencing. It was not until I took the steps to overcome depression that I realised just how much our habits can affect our moods. Depression can be very complex and varies from person to person, overcoming it takes a lot more than ‘snapping out’ of a cycle of sadness. However, we must be honest with the fact that behaviours and patterns can contribute to these feelings.
At the height of the depression that I experienced, some of the bad habits I had were staying at home for days on end, not speaking to anyone about anything ‘real’, watching series for hours, not eating properly, not sleeping properly and generally, not fixing my mind on anything positive at all. The lie that I also believed was “I’m just not a social person, this is my nature”. It is important to know that we can be introverted or extroverted or anything else without having habits that lead to self-destruction.
It was not until I was in the process of overcoming depression that I realised I needed to change my habits. I could not stay in a place of isolation and expect myself to refrain from the negative thought patterns that come along with that. I could not stay home all day everyday and expect the feeling of heaviness to disappear. Alongside prayer, fasting and other spiritual disciplines, one of the other things I had to do was be intentional about changing habits.
How did I do this? I did not let a day go by where I was alone with my thoughts in my house. I would talk to people even when I felt like being alone. If I could feel even a slight feeling of heaviness, I would turn up worship music loud in my room and dance until the weight lifted.
But, even in this, I found myself falling short. I began to take note of the length of time between ‘episodes’ of low mood, each time hoping that would be the last. In doing this, I almost became obsessive with gaining relief from the darkness and I kept slipping and it felt like a cycle – a few days up then down and up again. I was frustrated with myself, just when I felt myself overcoming, I would fall again. It was exhausting. All I wanted was relief from it, I sought out for encouragement from scripture and this brought me the hope I needed.
“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 (NIV)
As the scripture states, your flesh and heart may fail. The word “may” means that failure is not inevitable – you do not HAVE to fail but, there is a possibility that you may. But – there is a but – even if you find yourself falling short, even if this is the hundredth time you said you would quit that habit and you failed, even if! God, the Almighty Father is the strength of your heart. To have strength is to be able to handle great amounts of force and pressure so, despite numerous failures, God will strengthen your heart – He will give you the ability to rise and try again. And the promise, He is your portion forever – He is not going to leave you, He will help you and guide you through it all.
Once I realised the truth of this scripture, I stopped relying on my own strength to break out of bad habits and formulate new ones. I stopped obsessively counting the number of days free from depression but rather focused on asking God to continue strengthening me. The more I did this, the more I saw myself gaining that strength and overcoming. I still played my part; I still chose to do the opposite of whatever I would have done previously but the difference was I knew and relied on God to help me.
I encourage you to do the same. Whatever behaviours you need to change, be honest and open about them. Do not cover up things with excuses like “it’s my personality”, if something is not helping you own up to it. Once you do that, speak to God and trusted people who will keep you accountable for your actions. Then, continually, pray and ask God for the strength to break old behaviours and formulate new behaviours that will help you overcome. Know that, God is the strength of your heart today and forevermore.