Magazine article Psychology Today

How to Break a Habit

Magazine article Psychology Today

How to Break a Habit

Article excerpt

DON'T TRY HARDER-TRY DIFFERENTLY.

WH Y IS IT so hard to stop smoking/shopping/biting your nails, even though you really want to? Part of the problem is that people rely on their own motivation and willpower, which often fail. Instead, try more specific strategies for habit breaking. -Thomas Plante

CHANGETHE FRAME

Can't kick a problematic behavior? The key is changing something in the external environment, which you can control, rather than in your head, which takes more effort. Instead of willing yourself to skip dessert, remove all sweets from the house, and instead of just wanting to jump up off the couch and exercise, get a big dog who makes that a necessity.

USE YOUR WORDS

Working to end a longstanding habit may involve feelings of deprivation-but try not to sulk about it. The choice to sidestep an old weakness can be empowering. A simple language adjustment-saying "I don't eat sugar," for example, instead of "I can't eat sugar"may help people stick to their goals, suggests a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. …

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