How Traveling Can Help You Break a Habit


open suitcase with clothes and camera. travel. Des Moines MomIt’s almost summer break and family vacation is right around the corner. I’ll be honest – when it comes to travel and vacation, we don’t usually think about good habits. In fact, it usually throws us off balance!

You’re in a different place so it’s hard to maintain your normal routine. But what if I told you traveling can actually be helpful in breaking a bad habit? 

Different place, different setting – these are actually the characteristics that make traveling the perfect time for breaking a bad habit.

Change the Cue to Change the Habit

There are two ways to break a habit: change the cue, also sometimes called the reminder, the cue is the trigger that sparks the habitual behavior. The second way to break a habit is to change the action. 

The most straightforward approach is to avoid the situational triggers. 

They usually fall into one of these categories:

  • location
  • time
  • emotional state
  • people 
  • your last action

Recovering addicts are very familiar with the power of social or environmental cues. But you don’t have to be a recovering addict to understand this. 

Think about the last time you walked into a movie theatre. Before taking your second step, you smelled the popcorn, and immediately began craving salty, buttery, movie theater popcorn, right? (Unless you’re not a fan of popcorn.) 

Understanding the power of setting can help you break an addiction. Research has shown that smokers find it easier to quit smoking when they’re traveling or removed from their typical setting.

Putting It into Practice

I’m not saying you have to go on a trip to break your habit – but it might help.

There are plenty of other ways to help you overcome an addiction or break a habit. It can be as simple as finding an alternate route home. Let’s say you’re tempted by the fast-food restaurant you drive by on your way home from work. Going another way will eliminate the triggering situation altogether.

Understanding this concept allows us to make contextual changes to avoid the habitual call-and-response. 

To really drive this home, I want to tell you about a popcorn study. Participants were given popcorn in two different settings: in a movie theater and in a conference room. When they were offered it in a movie theater, the response is what you would expect – they reacted like a typical moviegoer, salivating for it. 

They ended up eating out of habit. But the snack didn’t have nearly as much appeal when offered in the conference room. Participants ate much less in the conference room than they did in the movie theater.

Changing your environment is a simple, but powerful way to eliminate – or at least begin to lessen the power of your habit. If you can’t take a trip, take a look at the situational triggers that might lead you to be tempted. Then, make the changes needed.


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