Teaching Your Brain to Ward Off Bad Habits

Every bad habit can be broken. All it takes is perseverance and a smart strategy.

What's the Latest?


The Chicago Tribune currently features an article by Danielle Braff detailing strategies for breaking annoying habits. Braff explains that to tackle a bad habit, one must understand the anatomy of a habit. She evokes Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, who offers a tripartite explanation. Every habit, says Duhigg, consists of a cue, a routine and a reward: 

"The reward is how our brain learns how to latch on to the habit," Duhigg said, explaining that the reward is always something positive. Your brain tries to turn a repeatable pattern into a habit as long as it has a reward attached. So if you have a cup of coffee with a cookie, then your brain will use the coffee as a cue for a cookie. If you do this often enough (every other day for three weeks, for example), your brain will turn it into a repeatable pattern, and that pattern will become a habit.

As you can probably surmise, the secret to kicking habits is to train the brain away from this routine.

What's the Big Idea?

Braff offers a number of examples of ingrained, trained habits and the ways one can re-train the brain to avoid falling into the subconscious pursuits of unhealthy rewards. She acknowledges that some strategies require more effort than others -- some even requiring broad lifestyle changes. 

Braff's article also features strategies for how to avoid falling into bad habits, the classic "cure by prevention" method. She quotes author Tara Gidus:

"I think a lot of it is planning, as in having healthier substitutions, but it also has to do with plain old willpower and self-talk."

Read more at The Chicago Tribune

Photo credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

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