To quit smoking I used running. In 2003 I was still a smoker. My bad habit had been picked up by being a club kid in my teens and a bartender in my twenties. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2002, I started training Muay Thai seriously and became addicted to the sport. I knew my smoking and clubbing had to stop, and I should focus more on training.
I wasn’t a heavy smoker, but I was still in the habit of a two to three cigarettes in the evenings. Instead of smoking, I decided to go running more. Running made me feel accomplished and also reminded me how much I needed healthy lungs for Muay Thai. Eventually, I just stopped smoking altogether and built a life around training.
A couple of years ago I stumbled on a booked called How to Change Habit by Charles Duhigg. It describes how we can’t just tell ourselves to stop habits like eating sweets, smoking, drinking, or nail-biting. We need to REPLACE that habit with an action that gives the same reward. This is why so many people switch one bad habit for another, like eating more sweets when they quit smoking or smoking more when they stop drinking. But swapping one bad habit for another never entirely addresses the bigger problem.