The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

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The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw



"The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken"
Samuel Johnson

Whilst the strategy of trying to distract yourself - by taking your mind off what you are trying not to do - appears to work fairly well when dealing with temptations, it appears that the same strategy is not effective when dealing with slowly learned, deeply ingrained habits.

Temptations are easy - just walk on by, or think of something else, or run away as fast as you can or just close your eyes when you see the temptation.This apparently works a treat. I say apparently. But not so for habits - they are a completely different order of difficult. Changing habits is very, very difficult. You can't run away from habits - habits are what you do, and who you are. Habits, unlike temptations, happen automatically, in many cases without our awareness.

So are we stuck hopelessly repeating our bad habits? Recent research by Quinn et al., (2010)* suggests not. They title their paper ‘Can’t Control Yourself? Monitor those Bad Habits’. Apparently, when it comes to deep seated habits what we need to do is focus on stopping the behaviour before it starts with what the researchers call ‘vigilant monitoring’. You need to keep an eye on yourself at all times. Monitor, monitor, monitor - the very opposite of distraction.

So that’s good news. The bad news is that even then it’s difficult. For long term success you’ll need to replace the old bad habit with a new good habit. Over time, the new habit might become sufficiently strong to be performed without requiring constant monitoring of the old habit. For example, a dieter’s self monitoring of unhealthy eating habits may promote long-term behavior change only insofar as it creates an opportunity in which to establish new healthy eating patterns. The problem - and dieters know this all too well - is that recurrence is one feature of habits that makes them difficult to change once formed. They keep coming back. Nonetheless, the monitoring strategy identified by Quinn et al., provides an initial handle on how to break unwanted habits.

*J.Quinn, A.Pascoe, W.Wood, & D.Neal (2010) Can't control yourself? Monitor those bad habits. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 499-511

Posted by Annabel

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