Leave your habits out of the moving truck

Chelsea on

It’s easy to see that moving is a big life changer. Your entire history is in boxes, sealed with tape and packed into a van to begin a new existence somewhere else.

Whether you’re moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico or just to an adjacent borough, moving is still moving. And according to Charles Duhigg, author and New York Times reporter, moving may be just what you need to kick your more persistent habits.

Duhigg took some time in March to talk with Terry Gross on Fresh Air about his upcoming book "The Power of Habit." During his interview, he touched on what makes habits happen, what keeps them going and what it finally takes to break them.

Each habit begins with a trigger, when something in your brain creates a desire to do a particular behavior. This behavior becomes part of a routine, so ingrained you don’t even realize it’s happening. Finally, your brain recognizes a reward or satisfaction from the behavior. Habits take many forms; putting on the left shoe first, biting your nails, buying a particular brand of toothpaste, or smoking. Any one person might have dozens of habits they haven’t even noticed yet.

Duhigg explained that a change of location and environment, like moving, disrupts the habit triggers. When you take your first step into that new house or apartment, and realize all the changes to come, it’s the perfect moment to initiate other changes too. An empty fridge can be stocked with healthier foods, your new stoop isn’t the same as your favorite smoking spot, you haven’t even bought the same laundry detergent as your mother yet. Duhigg pointed out that studies show people are more likely to change the brand of coffee they buy after a move.

However, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change everything at once or freak out when you have the occasional slipup. Breaking a habit is a process, just like moving is. The most important thing is to desire the change and to make it happen. Duhigg said, "You have to actually believe in your capacity to change for habits to permanently change."

So as you’re preparing for a move, try not to dwell on the life you leave behind, but instead, focus on the opportunity to make a fresh start, and on a positive change you’d like to make in your life. The grass is greener on the other side, if you want it to be.

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