Beating bad habits

Beating bad habits


An exercise to help you change a bad habit (10 min).

Behavioural change exercise

Step 1: Find the cue

When you feel the urge for your habit, ask yourself… What time is it? Where are you? Who else is around? What did you just do? What emotion are you feeling? One of these five things is the cue: look for, which one stays the same every time you feel the urge.

Step 2: Find the real reward

What craving is your habit satisfying? Change the reward to find out. For example, having a cookie might be satisfying the craving for a hand-to-mouth gesture. Try having a coffee instead. Is the craving gone? If not, think of another reward. Maybe the cookie is satisfying the craving for a break from work. Try taking a walk instead. Bingo. You’ve found the real reward: a break from work.

Step 3: Find a new routine

Now that you’ve found the real reward, think of options for a replacement routine. Using the above example, a walk is one option. Making a phone call outside could be another, or having a short conversation with a colleague. Try to find a routine that you could feasibly do every time you used to do the old routine.

Step 4: Commit to the plan

Print off the image or copy it out by hand and fill in your new plan. Put it up somewhere you’ll see it every day, like on your computer screen at work. Try it for a week. Eventually, studies say, the new behaviour will become automatic.