Psychological Self-Help

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comment." Your responding becomes faster and easier, needing less
conscious effort like a well established habit. 
If you are having trouble beginning a hard-to-start project,
research has shown that working out in advance specific ways of
implementing your intentions will more than double your chances of
getting going. One impressive example is from Milne, Orbell, and
Sheeran (1999) who worked with patients with heart disease in an
effort to get them to follow doctor's orders. They found that a
motivational/health benefit educational program, which focused on
building self-confidence in health care matters, teaching ways to
reduce vulnerability to heart disease, and emphasizing the importance
of exercise, increased compliance with doctor's directions by only
10%, from 29% to 39%. However, when the educational program was
augmented by the development of explicit implementation intentions
by each patient, the rate of compliance jumped up to 91%! Much
earlier studies had also shown that telling people the dire
consequences of smoking or not brushing or refusing inoculation shots
didn't work well. The message is much more effective if a person also
makes a commitment (to others and to him/herself) to carry out
specific healthy behaviors at a specific time and place--an
implemented intention. 
If you tend to get distracted from your good intentions, say
working or studying, it may be more helpful to tell yourself in advance
to "ignore the distraction" rather than to say "just re-double your
efforts." If you are already motivated, you can't add much drive but
you can reduce your distraction. Also, when you face a known bad
habit, like gorging on junk food in the evening, it can help to think at
supper time "I will eat this gorgeous peach instead of the usual chips &
dips... candy... ice cream... cookies... etc., if I get hungry this
evening." This kind of advanced thinking/planning of desired behavior
can be used in so many situations, e.g. to counter an angry retort, to
stifle your own prejudiced thought/feeling/remark, and so on. Perform
this new intended behavior often enough, it becomes a habit and you
become a better person. 
STEP FIVE: Practice responding faithfully to the stimuli you have
arranged in your environment and to the situations
implementing your intentions.
You must heed your plans, warning signs, prompting cues,
schedules, and the stimulus situations you have designated to activate
some wanted behavior. Faithfully avoiding situations that lead to
unwanted outcomes is also important. Keeping records and rewarding
your successes will also help. If you find yourself disregarding the
signs, cues, schedules, and your best of intentions, learn and practice
the new desired behavior still more (Method #2), avoid or reduce the
distracting habits, add more reinforcement for the desired behavior
(Method #16), and study more deeply the causes and needs
underlying the compelling disruptive behavior. 
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