We know quitting is not as easy as 1, 2, and 3, although others may think so.
Adding another layer of complexity: RITUALS! There is research to suggest that by doing rituals it reduces performance anxiety, people do better on test, perform better in sports, and the sense of failure is less…. Thinking in terms of tobacco, this can be very much a ritual: wake up cigarette, drink coffee, get ready, smoke, drive to work- smoke, work break suck down 1 or 2 cigarettes with x amount of time, lunch go for a walk- smoke a cigarette, drive home, etc. This happens almost 365 days a year for “x” number of years. Meaning your brain is very used to this “habit loop” and did I mention our brains love habits! It keeps us feeling normal by executing our everyday routine. This is because by completing the behavior, there tends to be a secondary reward; not only is your brain being rewarded by the chemicals itself (in this case nicotine) but it is rewarded by doing the behavior.
One can certainly develop a new positive “habit loop” by:
- Noticing the trigger or craving - Think about what you would normally do when this arises, bringing the experience to your cognitive awareness to then-
- Engaging in a different action or ‘ritual’ - Anything to get your mind off the craving or to avoid a trigger
- Providing a reward- Think small people- it does not have to be a trip to the Bahamas, it could be calling a good friend to tell them of your success or posting on BecomeAnEx at how much you ROCK since you made it through a really tough craving.
After practice and time, this can become the new habit loop! Our brains then break pathways to the “old loop” and form stronger pathways to the “new loop” so after a while you naturally choose the new “healthier” loop. Yes “old dogs can learn new tricks.”
Check out more from the Mayo Clinic Blog