Build a New Habit Loop

The nicotine in tobacco hijacks the “habit loop” in your brain.

When you do something that feels good, your brain remembers. It wants that good feeling again. That’s how habits form. You do some activity, you get rewarded, and then you do it again. This “habit loop” is how your brain makes rewarding activities part of your routine.

When you use tobacco to satisfy a craving, it feels like a reward. It doesn’t last very long, but for a few seconds you and your brain feel great. Repeat the process hundreds of times, and now you’re addicted.

Here’s a 3-step process you can use to build a new habit loop.

  • Identify a trigger that makes you want to smoke, vape, dip or chew.

    Think about the routine you usually follow to satisfy the craving. For example, “When a craving hits in the evening, I have a cigarette on my deck.”

  • Think about the reasons you don’t want to use tobacco anymore.

    Then, plan a different routine.
    For example, “When an evening craving hits, I’ll take a short walk.” Or “I’ll chew on gum or sunflower seeds.” Or “I’ll use a piece of nicotine gum or lozenge instead.”

  • Reward yourself!

    Appreciate your success when you follow through. Maybe it’s treating yourself to a long bath or shower. Maybe it’s enjoying the fresh air on your walk. Maybe it’s posting in the EX Community. Or maybe it’s savoring a special meal or treat.

You can practice this approach for a new habit loop every time a craving sneaks up on you. Think of it as a strategy for avoiding snakes that creep out on a trail. It won’t make the snakes stop slithering, but it will keep you from getting bitten!

Next up today, let’s get you even more ready to quit by writing a goodbye letter to tobacco.