Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 12: It works best to change many things at once, rather than one thing at a time

It works best to change many things at once, rather than one thing at a time

Anyone attempting to break a habit can learn a lot from marketers. They’re the experts at getting you to change. They love it when you are at a transitional period of your life.

Advertisers love to target pregnant women. They have their ways of knowing when you’re pregnant. You surfed over to the Walgreens site and checked the prices of pregnancy tests. Next thing, you’re inundated by ads for prenatal vitamins, maternity clothing, and soft drinks.

Soft drinks? Why would pregnant women be targeted by ads for soft drinks?

Because people have high levels of brand loyalty for things like soft drinks. They very rarely switch brands, but are more likely to during times of life transition.

Advertisers look for people at transitional moments in their lives: going to college, getting married, having a baby, moving to a new home, retiring. Routines are suddenly in flux. Shopping patterns and brand loyalties are up for grabs. Their advertising dollar goes further that way.

Transitional moments are a great time to break a habit. They are so good, in fact, that you just might want to create a time of transition so that you can break a bunch of bad habits at once. This doesn’t mean you have to get pregnant so that you can stop shooting heroin. All you need to do is lump all the changes you need to make together and start them all at once.

People in recovery have known this for a long time. That’s the rationale for sending a person to inpatient rehab for 28 days. Yes, rehab gets you out of an environment of chemical use and, yes, there are helpers there 24/7, but rehab also breaks your old routines and forces you into a different pattern for your day.

Inpatient rehab is not used as much as it used to be and, when it is, it’s often not for 28 days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a transitional moment yourself. Consider all the bad habits you have and the good ones you want to develop. Put them together and work on them all at once.

A lot of people find that overwhelming. They say they can’t do everything at once. It’s too much. Science shows otherwise. People are more successful when they do. One change helps the other change. When you drink less coffee, you smoke fewer cigarettes. When you smoke fewer cigarettes, you are more comfortable when exercising. When you exercise more, you sleep better. When you sleep better, you drink less coffee.

The thing that makes a habit a habit, is that it’s done automatically. You don’t even think about it, and it’s done. You start it before you know it. When we change other habits, or when we are in a time of life transition, we are forced to rethink things; patterns are broken, and new possibilities emerge.

Therefore, if you want to break a habit, or start better ones, create a transitional period of your life. It’ll be easier that way, really.

Click here to see other posts I’ve written about addiction

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