Actually It is helpful to use a variety of tactics to tackle a bad habit. Replacing the reward by getting it elsewhere is helpful – another tactic is to disrupt the trigger that causes you to perform the action of the bad habit. If the trigger is removed altogether, or at least diminished, the action is going to be significantly less likely to occur. Below are some ideas on how you can successfully disrupt a trigger.
Put another action between the trigger and habit action. By creating a delay between the trigger and the habit action you can create an important space in which to gain awareness and make a better decision, and hopefully not perform the bad habit you are trying to cut out. This is a simple but very effective practice that is easy to implement. It works well because you are not telling yourself you can’t perform the action and get the reward that you want; you are just asking yourself to wait for a little.
An example of doing this might be making yourself chew gum for 10 minutes before you allow yourself to have a cigarette. Or it might be going for a 5-minute walk before you allow yourself to eat a chocolate biscuit. Oftentimes, the desire to perform a bad habit will be greatly diminished and perhaps pass altogether just by delaying the bad habit. This might be because you gain more self-control, more self-awareness, and feel less like performing the bad habit, or maybe the feelings that typically trigger you fade away. For example, if you like to smoke when you feel anxious, waiting 10 minutes and chewing gum might be enough time for those anxious feelings to pass.
Extending the interrupting action over time is a good way to ratchet up the pressure on yourself to not perform the bad habit. For example, you might ask yourself to chew gum for 10 minutes before having a cigarette, but after a month of doing this, extend it to 20 minutes. The interrupting action you put into place can be many things, and choosing an effective interrupting action will, of course, make habit change easier still. Ideally, choose something which reinforces positive behavior and the characteristics you want to put in place. For example, chewing gum as an interrupting action is good because it is healthy. Chewing gum helps protect the teeth and suppresses appetite (which also makes it an excellent interrupting habit if you eat too much and / or have food cravings). Having a healthy interrupting action is a small reminder to yourself that you are trying to live a healthier life, which further contributes to your overall motivation to stop the bad habit of smoking.
If you put in place an interrupting action, it is important that you are patient and allow yourself the cigarette (or whatever bad habit you are interrupting) once the time has elapsed. Beating yourself up or trying to force the process is counter-productive. After a few weeks, you should notice a decreased desire to perform the bad habit, and might then consider adding further time to the interruption or other techniques to remove the bad habit. Adding an interrupting action before you perform a bad habit is an excellent way to remove a bad habit because You create a space of time for the emotions or whatever is pushing you to perform the bad habit to subside. You rekindle your conscious, responsible self that is in control and, even if only as a delaying action, you are still closer to the person you want to be. You can perform an action which reaffirms positive habits and a better way of living. For example, chewing gum is healthy.