If you’ve ever tried to break a habit, you know what a struggle it can be. Quitting habits like smoking and overeating can be extremely difficult, even when the stakes are high. One of the reasons for this is that we have to deal with our resistance, and she’s very a persuasive master. Resistance is that voice that convinces us that we know more than the experts, that we deserve the treat, that tomorrow is when we should start turning over a new leaf.
But there’s hope.
Every day, the fields of neuroscience, psychology, behavior modification and others are finding new tools, ideas, and understanding to help us change and live better.
The Curiosity approach to breaking habits
Based on his research, psychiatrist Judson Brewer has found that by observing ourselves during the trigger-behavior-habit process, we can develop the resolve to quit our unwanted habits. By using the technique of curiosity we can increase our chances of quitting bad habits by, like, a lot.
With this technique, instead of fighting our urges, we indulge them but pay attention to what’s happening in our momentary experience. We become curious and bring our attention to the whole experience, of say, for example, vaping. We pay attention to the urge, pay attention to ourselves lighting the e-cig, to the smell, the taste, our inhalation, the release, the benefits, and then… the drawbacks. We pay attention to the whole experience without judgment to understand what’s happening when we get caught up in our loops. We get to see what we really get out of it.
When we observe our unhealthy behavior over time in a non-judgmental way, we usually become disenchanted with the habit and less interested in doing it.
I was so freaking excited when I saw this talk. We hear so often that people don’t change and with all our past failures, we begin to believe it. But what I know is that change is possible and worth the effort. When we remove obstacles from our lives (like bad habits), we free ourselves up to grow up and be/become someone we like. Ideas like the curiosity approach not only help to demystify the change process, they give us real tools to help us do it and make our lives awesome!!!
How to go about it
If you want to try this curiosity technique, here’s how to go about it:
Without judgment and any commitment to quitting, start observing yourself while you’re in your loop. Remember, this is simply research… so just observe. Take deep breaths as you’re observing the whole scenario play out… as if you’re watching a movie. Refrain from commenting to yourself (like a crazy person), whether you should or shouldn’t. Take note of all the feelings — good and bad. When you decide later that you want to quit, the “notes” that you take in this stage, will help you a lot. You’ll be weighing the good and bad to decide if the cost you’re paying by enjoying your habit is too high.
They say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one. This technique should help you do that, for sure, and it makes quitting easier. What many people have found is that after doing this exercise, they almost effortlessly stop their bad habits. It can be about as effortless as a dead branch falling from a tree.
The information you gather will make your resolve to change firmer. Your resistance can try talking you out of doing what’s better for your future self, but you can tell her, I’ve got the receipts!