To Break Bad Habits, You Must Create New Ones

Rather than focus on not doing something you shouldn't do, create a new habit to override the old, bad one.

To Break Bad Habits, You Must Create New Ones

Rather than trying to focus on getting rid of a bad habit, it may be easier to try developing a new one (preferably one that's also positive, too).

Melissa Dahl from NYMag writes on an interview with Art Markman, a University of Texas at Austin psychologist, who has struggled forming his own positive habits and breaking his bad ones. In his interview with The Psychology Podcast, he talks about the power of positive goals versus negative goals. For instance, say you don't want to bite your nails anymore:

“Because it’s something you don’t want to do. And the reason that that’s a problem is because your habit-learning system is an active system. It wants to associate behaviors with the environment. If you say I don’t want to do something, then what you’re doing is focusing yourself on not acting.”

Markman says in his interview that it's much easier to learn something new than to break an old habit. So, the best way to break that bad habit is to replace it with a new one. Brett McKay from the Art of Manliness found his own research to break his habits, and discovered his actions could be broken down into three steps: cue, routine, and reward.

In order to figure out what cue was driving his routine to drink Mountain Dew in the afternoon, he tried replacing the habit with drinking water one day and going out for a walk the next. In his own tests, he found that the quick walk won out and helped him get that burst of energy he needed to get through the rest of the day. Likewise, Markman found he would bite his nails while he read. So, he got some toys and squish balls to play with, which did the trick — his hands simply required some occupation while he read.

Of course, changing these long-held habits does take some effort. Studies say it takes 66 days to form a new one. But with some mental trickery to recognize the routine you need to change in order to get that same feeling of reward, you'll be well on your way to forming a more productive, positive habit.

What bad habit have you conquered or wish to overcome? Sound off in the comments below.

Read more at NYMag.

Photo Credit:

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

Psychogenic shivers: Why we get the chills when we aren’t cold

Humans are particularly prone to shiver when a group does or thinks the same thing at the same time.

Paramount/Getty Images
Mind & Brain

A few years ago, I proposed that the feeling of cold in one's spine, while for example watching a film or listening to music, corresponds to an event when our vital need for cognition is satisfied.

Keep reading Show less

Colors evoke similar emotions around the world, survey finds

Certain colors are globally linked to certain feelings, the study reveals.

Credit: Liudmila Dutko on Adobe Stock
Mind & Brain
  • Color psychology is often used in marketing to alter your perception of products and services.
  • Various studies and experiments across multiple years have given us more insight into the link between personality and color.
  • The results of a new study spanning 6 continents (30 nations) shows universal correlations between colors and emotions around the globe.
Keep reading Show less

COVID-19 may cause 'significant' cognitive deficits, study says

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause neurological damage in some patients.

Scroll down to load more…