Break Your Habits with Three Easy Words
Got a bad habit that needs breaking? How about a good habit you need to start making? Researchers have discovered “exciting” news about how our brains process habits and are now ready to reveal the science behind it. Is your smart phone glued to your hand and avoid human contact? Do you play video games instead of going to the gym? How about drinking too much wine which typically leads to crying? Rejoice that you are not alone and help is on the way with the knowledge of the three R’s: Reminder, Routine, Reward.
“We were going to call it the three D’s,” explained on of the scientists, “but the focus group said that denial, delusion and disappointment were too depressing, which could actually be the fourth D when it comes to dropping a bad habit.”
Here’s how it works. Let’s say your anxiety kicks in – this is your reminder to go smoke a cigarette – which is your routine, and when the sense of calm is restored – your reward. When the reward is positive, the desire to repeat the action will be reinforced and a new habit will be formed.
“When I was a kid,” said one of the research participants, “my dad caught me smoking and made me smoke an entire pack cigarettes. One after the other until I threw up. I’m happy to say I haven’t smoked a cigarette since then.”
One of the quickest ways to transform a habit is to replace with a different one. For example, when anxiety kicks in, replace the routine with something other than smoking. Try chewing gum, doing five sit-ups or petting your dog (if you have one, if not, go get one). The objective is to pick something easy so lasting change can occur. For once in your life it’s preferable to set the bar low.
“It was an interesting hypothesis,” said a woman in data entry. “They suggested if you wanted to start the habit of flossing your teeth, start by just flossing one. Who flosses one tooth? I swear these scientists are just fucking with us sometimes.”
So what’s the takeaway with starting and stopping habits? Scientists say it’s important to reward yourself for trying. Celebrating small successes each step of the way helps us stick to our new habits and make them routine.
“I couldn’t agree more,” said a researcher. “Every time a go to the gym, I reward myself with a cheeseburger. It’s why I keep going back at least once a week.”
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