Tuesday, January 06, 2015

What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits

Our environments come to unconsciously direct our behavior. Even behaviors that we don't want, like smoking. "For a smoker, the view of the entrance to their office building — which is a place that they go to smoke all the time — becomes a powerful mental cue to go and perform that behavior," Neal says. Over time those cues become so deeply ingrained that they are very hard to resist. And so we smoke at the entrance to work when we don't want to. We sit on the couch and eat ice cream when we don't need to, despite our best intentions, despite our resolutions. "We don't feel sort of pushed by the environment," Wood says. "But, in fact, we're very integrated with it." To battle bad behaviors then, one answer is to disrupt the environment in some way. Even small changes can help — like eating the ice cream with your nondominant hand. What this does is disrupt the learned body sequence that's driving the behavior, which allows your conscious mind to come back online and reassert control. "It's a brief sort of window of opportunity," Wood says, "to think, 'Is this really what I want to do?' " Of course, larger disruption can also be helpful, which brings us back to heroin addiction in Vietnam. more

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