the bars, but not all of them. It's still hard to go. Similarly, it is hard to
seek out self-help groups, like a club for single parents, or a therapist.
Although it's difficult, consider the consequences of not changing.
STEP THREE: The substitute response may need to be practiced.
Exactly what competing behavior you intend to use must be
well thought out.
The overriding response, say pressing your foot against the floor
(so no one notices), to an urge to perform a habit, such as anxiously
bouncing your leg, may need to be done in front of a mirror until you
look natural and can do other things, like talk, at the same time.
Action designed to replace the bad habit must be so well planned and
practiced, so it can be used immediately (before the unwanted habit
STEP FOUR: Make the substitution at every opportunity.
Every time you feel the slightest tendency or urge to do the old
habit, perform the new response. Be especially watchful when you are
in the situation where the habit usually occurs, e.g. if you bite your
nails while studying, be alert for the first tendency--say just touching
your face--to bite the nails and immediately carry out your competing
response which might be making your hands into a fist instead of
extending your finger into your mouth.
In many self-help projects to overcome a bad habit, it may be
helpful for the person to continue the substitute behavior for a minute
or two after it has overcome the unwanted urge. Try to stop the
unwanted habit every time. Don't give up too quickly... habits do not
Relatively little time ordinarily is involved in this simple method,
just thinking of an alternative, practicing it, and assuring that you
faithfully substitute the alternative behavior. On the other hand, don't
expect quick results in every case. Often the unwanted habit decreases
in a few days but it ain't dead yet. If you stop the habit reversal at
that point, the old habit is likely to come back. Don't be surprised if it
takes two or three months to truly conquer the old habit. Remember
old habits may never die completely--millions of smokers have gone
back to smoking weeks or months after "breaking the habit."
Common problems with this method
Sometimes the substitutes have unwanted consequences, e.g.
eating instead of smoking may increase your weight (usually by only a
few pounds--and that can be guarded against). Perhaps the most
difficult aspect of this method involves the fact that many unwanted
habits occur when we are occupied by some other activity...or when