Get Rid of a Bad Habit by Replacing It With a Good One.

If you’re trying to break a bad habit, try to reward yourself with something in return, rather than punishing yourself for failure. Habits are often so ingrained in our subconscious minds that we don’t even realize that we are doing them, which can make it especially difficult to get rid of what is harmful to us.

Business Insider recently spoke with Yale University psychologist John Barg, who was trying to break one of his bad habits: alcohol. After driving at high speed from Tennessee to New York to get to the liquor store, Barg realized that he needed to change something, but he did not quite understand how to deal with it.

He got rid of all his booze, of course, but he also started reaching for something else: Tootsie Pops.

Whenever he felt like a drink, he enjoyed a lollipop instead. That being said, instead of punishing himself for wanting to drink, he indulged in a little sugar as he did it and created a new habit.

Behavioral changes rooted in regret or fear usually don’t work. The idea for his lollipop habit came to Barg from a friend who suggested that his wine cravings were actually related to sugar cravings. So, instead of quenching that thirst for booze, he pressed down on his hands and lips something else related to candy.

Although then he was most likely left with a sweet tooth, and not with a drink, but the idea is correct.

Habit expert Wendy Wood of the University of Southern California told Business Insider that a new habit can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to over 250 days to form. If you replace one habit, such as drinking, with another that you enjoy, then you don’t have to rely so much on self-control to achieve your goal; instead, the new habit will automatically feel like that bad habit.

Regarding Barg and his chocolates, he says that although it became a habit like drinking, he eventually got to the point where he didn’t like it anymore, so he stopped eating them. However, when he did so, his drunkenness did not return.


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