If you’ve ever tried to give up something that isn’t good for you, 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 persuasive. 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 really 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’m all about simplifying and demystifying the change process so 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 eventually 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 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 that to me, is so freaking awesome!!!
So, try it. Try this curiosity technique. Without judgment and any commitment to quitting, start observing yourself while you’re in your loop. This is simply research. When you decide later that you want to quit, the “notes” that you take from this exercise will help you a lot. In many cases, after doing this exercise, people’s habits effortlessly fall off like a dead branch from a tree. They say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one. This technique gets you there. It will not only help you get to the realization that your habit isn’t helping you, the information you gather will make your resolve to change grounded in hard evidence. And that’s something your resistance won’t be able to talk around when you start making moves to change.