How to Change Negative Behavior

Over time, negative behaviors become habits, which is why they can be so difficult to change. This is because habits literally change the way our brain functions. "It is as though, somehow, the brain retains a memory of the habit context, and this pattern can be triggered if the right habit cues come back," states Ann Graybiel, a professor of neuroscience at MIT. Fortunately, it is possible to retrain yourself to change negative behavior into positive habits.

Instructions

    • 1

      Identify triggers and patterns. Are there certain times or situations when you always seem to perform the negative behavior? For example, if you always smoke in the car, driving is one of your triggers.

    • 2

      Decide on a positive replacement behavior. Have a plan for what you are going to do so that you are less likely to revert to the negative behavior. For instance, if you're trying to stop eating junk food, commit to snacking on fresh vegetables instead.

    • 3

      Write down your goals, and refer to your list often to keep them in mind.

Tips & Warnings

  • Recruit an "accountability buddy" who is working on stopping the same negative behavior so you can help each other stay on track.
  • Focus on changing one negative behavior at a time so you are less likely to be overwhelmed.
  • Reward yourself every so often for practicing your new, positive habit.
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References

  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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