We know that different types of triggers can cause us to fall back into certain habits, but actually doing something about that is harder than it seems. Over on NPR, a handful of psychologists explain how altering a physical place can help you break bad habits.
Over time, we integrate our habits into our environment and the environment itself becomes a trigger. The trigger itself isn’t always obvious either, sometimes it’s nothing more than a door:
“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…
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.
Of course, adapting to your triggers is going to be different, but if you’re struggling to get into a good habit (or break a bad one), look around and see if you can do things a little differently.