Breaking the habit

Habits are a part of a person’s everyday life, but some people have been able to break their patterns of behavior with different methods.

When Traye Prince accidentally slams his hand in a car door, his instinct is not to cry. Instead he shrieks, swears and shakes it off.

“I don’t plan to stop cursing,” said Prince, 21, a junior political science student from St. Louis. “It has become a part of my daily language.”

For Prince, cursing is a habit that allows him to relieve frustration.

“Cursing helps to clear my mind,” he said. “I feel like I’m letting the anger out and I always feel better when I let go.”

Everyone is susceptible to patterns of behavior. Rob Shorette, 20, a sophomore English education student, said he doesn’t have a habit of swearing, but admits he had an odd habit of using the word “like” and biting his fingernails.

The California native said using the word “like” is part of the culture in Santa Barbara. When he moved to Florida, the word seemed to show up a lot less in his vocabulary.

As for his habit of fingernail biting, Shorette said that took him about two months to stop. The fingernail biting developed when he used to play basketball. After biting his nails for a year, Shorette stopped cold turkey because his girlfriend constantly nagged him about the appearance of his fingers.

“My fingers started looking nasty,” Shorette said. “I didn’t use any tricks to stop, my girlfriend’s nagging was enough,” Shorette said.

Unlike Shorette some students said getting rid of a habit cold turkey isn’t simple, especially when it’s something like partying.

Some habits can control a person’s life, but whether the repeated behavior is fingernail biting, cursing or partying certain professors believe it takes more than cold turkey to get rid of a habit.

“When people try to break away from a habit, they don’t understand habits have a function,” said Dana Dennard, an adjunct professor of psychology.

Dennard said habits are guided by social responsibility. Therefore, habits such as cursing or drinking have always been there, but where, when and under what conditions has changed.

Dennard recalls a time in his childhood when it was popular to curse among his peers, but never in front of adults. Today Dennard said that’s not the case.

These types of behaviors described by Dennard do not include behaviors such as fingernail biting. Dennard said there is a distinct difference between a habit like drinking and fingernail biting.

“Some habits you can live with better than others, there is no harm in something like nail biting,” Dennard said.

If a student wishes to get rid of a habit Dennard suggests six things he or she can do. First, he or she must be motivated and have the interest and intent to quit. Second, he or she can tell someone close to them about habit they are trying quit and give that person the responsibility of monitoring it.

“It can be something as simple as a look, a phone call or a phrase,” Dennard said.

Third, Dennard suggests he or she stops hanging around individuals with the same habits.

Fourth, He or she can keep a record of how often they engage in the behavior.

“A one page reference with the time, date and number of times the he or she is engaged in that behavior will do.” Dennard said.

Fifth, he or she can do an honesty appraisal. The appraisal should ask “If I keep this behavior how does it help me?” It should also ask “If I keep this behavior how does it hurt me?”

Finally, He or she can ask himself or herself whether the behavior needs to be replaced with another.

“Some habits have a purpose and cannot be replaced with another habit,” Dennard said.

Dennard also suggests if the behavior is destructive, then something positive should be put in place to fulfill that function. For example, instead of repeating negative behavior commit your time doing something positive like volunteering.

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