A habit is something you do without thinking. Hair pulling, nail biting, thumb sucking, scratching; these are all common habits that we try to break. Every time we catch ourselves doing one of these bad habits, we stop, but eventually, we do it again, usually when we are bored or nervous.
The worst of all these bad habits are smoking. Cigarette smoking is an addiction to nicotine, a highly addictive drug. However, the physical addiction to nicotine lasts only a few weeks after stopping. The habit of smoking can last your entire life.
Simply trying to refrain from doing something, is NOT an effective method for breaking bad habits. If you try really hard, eventually you might be able to resist most of the time. But there are tricks that the professionals use to quickly and easily stop a habit.
Behavioral Modification Therapy
Behavioral modification therapy is something psychologists use to help end their patients’ harmful habits. This therapy is a term that includes man specific methods such as Self-monitoring, covert desensitization, behavioral contracting, negative practice, over-correction, aversion training, relaxation training, and habit reversal. For smokers, habit reversal is highly effective.
Habit reversal has been shown most effective in treating nervous habits, like smoking, because the method teaches self-awareness and bringing attention to the action. In a study of hair pullers, or to be politically correct, people with trichotillomania, half the study participants used the method of negative practice, and the other half used habit reversal. Those using habit reversal were twice as likely to stop pulling their hair.
Habit reversal works like this. Unconscious habits are usually induced by some stressful event, called a trigger. The habit has then performed the routine. The routine helps relieve the stress, the reward. This is called the Habit Loop, and just becoming aware of your own personal triggers and rewards is the most important step.
Using Habit Reversal To Stop Smoking
You can quickly stop smoking by using this method of habit reversal. The first step is to become aware of when you smoke. This means figuring out what it is that triggers you to light a cigarette. A therapist would call this “awareness training.” The next step is to figure out why.
The professionally refer to this method as “competing for response practice.” Put simply it means “do something else.” To be really successful with habit reversal, you have to find a new habit to replace smoking, that will give you the same reward as you get from smoking. Then all you have to do is perform the new habit each time you feel triggered to light a cigarette. If it is stress relief you are after, find another activity that will help relieve stress. That means walking, breathing, eating chocolate, or drinking tea.
Dozens of studies of former smokers have shown that identifying the cue and reward that they personally associate with cigarettes, and then choosing a new routine that provides a similar reward, makes quitting successfully much more likely.