How coincidental that I’m reading
habits and my Psych readings for this week is on Conditioning and Learning. Since I’ve got 15 minutes to spare, I thought of sharing some psychology interesting facts!
This helps if you want to exercise more, concentrate longer, read more books, etc. Basically, if you want to create/ break a habit.
- Choose a target behaviour. Identify the activity you want to change.
e.g. stop snacking when I get home after dinner from school.
- Record a baseline. Record how much time you currently spend time on that desired/ undesired response/ activity each day.
e.g. every night.
- Establish goals. Using the principle of shaping* and set realistic goals for gradual improvement on each successive week. Also, set daily goals that add up to the weekly goal.
*Shaping—the act of setting a series of gradual, daily goals to mould responses to obtain a final desired pattern.
e.g. daily/ weekly goals: not snacking when I get home!
- Choose reinforcers. If you meet your daily goal, what daily reward will you allow yourself? It might be watching TV, eating chocolate, socializing with friends…anything you enjoy. Also establish a weekly reward. A movie? A dinner out? Play a game? Weekend hike?
e.g. daily reward: a handful of nuts; weekly reward: a movie treat.
- Record your progress. Keep accurate records of the amount of time spent/ no. of times you make the desired activity/ response.
Self-recording can make a difference all by itself. This is because we tend to react to being observed, even when we are the ones watching ourselves. When you observe yourself, you’re more likely to engage in desired behaviours and less likely to perform undesired ones.
Keep track of the no. of times you exercise, arrive late to class, eat veg, smoke, study, watch TV, swear, etc. Record keeping helps break patterns, and the feedback can be motivating as you begin to make progress.
- Reward successes.
- Adjust your plan as you learn more about your behaviour. Overall progress will reinforce your attempts at self-management.
Good Ways to Break Bad Habits
- Alternate Responses
Try to get the same reinforcement (e.g. friends’ support) with a new response (e.g. being generous and sincere about your compliments)
What is stimulating (e.g. food on the table, pictures of food) an unwanted response (e.g. mindless snacking)? Remove/ avoid/ delay the stimulus.
- Response Chains
Break up response chains that precede an undesired behaviour to break the bad habit.
E.g. response chain: come home from school, sit down, watch tv, eat a bag of chips, bathe.
To break the chain: bathe, brush teeth, turn on tv. Result? No more mindless snacking!
State the rewards you will receive, privileges you will forfeit, punishments you must accept for failing it (e.g. donating to an organization you despise). Sign this behavioural contract between you and a trusted person.
25 minutes up!
Hope this applies to you and if it does, remember to APPLY them!