Yesterday I picked up Les Misérables by Victor Hugo at Le Grand Biblioteque. It's been a long time since I've read a novel, the last one must have been more than a year ago, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
I noticed myself reading too much Hacker News and Reddit, and when this happens I usually block them. What happens next I already know: my attention simply diverts to a different form of distraction, which can be Twitter or Instagram.
When we try to remove something from our lives, we think our willpower will be enough. And it is enough, but only for the first few days (weeks if you are fortunate enough to have a good store of will power, mine oftentimes lasts hours if not minutes). However, those habits are there for a reason, you can't just remove them without leaving a void. The void "sucks" in a new habit, often similar in nature, to fill in what the old habit provided you.
Say you have a porn habit. You put a content blocker. Next thing you are doing is seeking racy content on YouTube. Say you eat a candy bar every day. You stop buying it, but then you start satisfying your sugar cravings with soda. Say you wake up late every day, you put an alarm clock to wake up early, but then you have to take a nap during the afternoon.
This is not to say the situation is hopeless. It is to say that the void will suck in what is nearest to the habit you are not allowing yourself in order to fulfill the need that the habit was covering for.
What you want is to have prepared the replacement prepared so that it is "sucked in" by your need. The porn user can find a sexual partner (or transmute his sexual energy), the candy bar eater can eat a piece of fruit, the person who wakes up late can start to go to bed earlier.
When I used to smoke, I would often structure my cigarrette breaks around "small wins" while at work. I would think "I'll have a smoke once I finish this task", this would make me more productive and also give me breaks from work. Once I quit, I found myself not taking breaks and losing focus, because we can't focus endlessly. Now I think "I'll prepare myself a coffee when I'm done with this", or whatever, the point is that smoking provided a break, and when I quit smoking I didn't know that's what prompted me to take a break.
I begun writing this text with the intention of highlighting the importance of exposing ourselves to better sources of knowledge, but it came back to bad habits. I guess quitting weed is what brought me to the topic. Yesterday was a difficult day, my body was aching from so much exercise and I could feel it all tensed up. I went to a festival to dance, yet I left after ten minutes because my body wasn't into it. I passed a convenience store and bought a beer, I felt my nervous system calm down immediately. Here is the void sucking in a different (and worse) habit because I have not provided myself what weed provided: a way to wind down and relax. The solution to this is body awareness, understanding how to breathe and relax my muscles without exogenous substances.