Today’s Solutions: February 05, 2023

You can’t break a habit by trying to stop yourself from performing the habit. The brain systems that stop a behavior require a lot of effort. In addition, you don’t learn anything when you don’t perform any actions, and so even when you successfully stop yourself from performing a behavior, your habit system will continue to suggest that action later.

Instead, there are several things you must do to change your behavior. You can find those things below.

Replace it with something else: Focus on replacing the undesirable behavior with one that you would prefer to perform. Each time you perform a different action in the setting where you used to display your bad habit, you are creating a new memory that reassociates your thoughts, feelings, and the physical environment with a different behavior. Eventually, that new behavior will become the norm.

Try a change of scenery: You should also try changing your environment to make undesirable behaviors as difficult as possible to do. This has two benefits. First, changing your physical surroundings decreases the chance you will be reminded of the undesirable behavior. Second, even if the habit is engaged, if the environment makes it hard to perform the behavior, you have more opportunity to stop yourself. For example, if you have the habit of eating several cookies at night, don’t buy cookies in the first place. Then after dinner, when the habit to eat a cookie is usually engaged, you won’t be able to perform it right away. It is unlikely you will drive out at night to get cookies, though of course stranger things have happened.

Recruit something else: Third, use the people around you for help. Let people nag you to stop a behavior. Humans are social creatures, and the feedback we get from other people is a powerful way to help us stop our bad habits. In addition, let other people give you suggestions of things they did to overcome their bad habits. Sharing tips and tricks is a great way to improve your strategies for changing your behavior.

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