Psychological Self-Help

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The simplest rule is to "put yourself in the right place at the right
time." The procrastinating student has a much greater chance of doing
his/her homework if he/she is in a library rather than in front of the
TV. The flabby, winded couch potato is more likely to work out if
he/she is in a gym rather than about to fall asleep in an overstuffed
chair at home. The lonely teenager is more likely to make friends
playing sports or joining a club than playing with his/her video games
at home. 
Hodgson and Miller (1982) describe a 42-year-old businessman
with a drinking problem, mainly, before supper and near bedtime. So,
they rearranged his schedule. He either ate immediately upon arrival
home or did something else that avoided drinking before supper (going
shopping, visiting, playing with children). He ordinarily didn't drink
after supper until 9:00 P.M. or so. So, every night at 9:00 instead of
drinking, he was scheduled to exercise, meditate, or have an intimate
conversation with his wife (without alcohol). After about a month, with
help from his wife, this rigid schedule became an enjoyable, healthy,
easy routine. 
As illustrated in this case, one of the more obvious means of
structuring your environment is by using a schedule, a to-be-done-list,
or a contract (see method #16). Making up a realistic daily schedule
is, first of all, an opportunity to carefully consider what is the best use
of our time in light of our values and long-range goals. Secondly, a
carefully prepared schedule is a good memory aid and can guide much
of our actions (see chapter 13). 
Reminders can initiate desired behavior. Examples: Signs can
remind us to exercise or give a compliment or express our affection for
a loved one. Put the signs where you won't overlook them--on your
lunch bag, on your coffee cup, on your mirror, etc. Timers or alarms or
dependable behaviors can be used as signals, e.g. set an alarm as a
reminder to clean up or do the dishes, use coffee drinking or going to
the water fountain as a reminder to take 15 minutes for relaxation,
use smoking or looking at your watch as a cue to say something
positive about yourself to increase self-esteem (write "I'm OK" on the
watch crystal). 
Making a public commitment, e.g. to lose weight, to contribute more to meetings, or to
start telling more jokes, provides considerable motivation.
It is crucial that we remember that other people make up a vital
part of our "environment." So, don't just think of the physical setting,
think of changing other people's responses which will, in turn,
encourage desired responses in us. Example: it is easy to tell the
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