Control your bad habits using “The Mind-bus technique”

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Do you like chocolates so much that it’s next to impossible for you not to have a small bite? Do you wish to eat those delicious butter cookies resting at a safe spot in your kitchen? Above all, do you know well enough that such food items have empty calories and yet you eat them to ruin your whole well-planned diet? If you’re like most people I am sure it happens with you. In spite of being aware of the repercussions of consuming refined sugar, you often fall prey to such strong cravings. But need not worry. Thanks to research psychologists who are dedicating a big part of their lives into discovering techniques so that you learn how to act upon your noble intentions.

The Experiment

In the British Journal of Health Psychology a research was published in the year 2013 that gives hope to people who are looking for breaking their bad eating habits. Researchers Kim Jenkins from Swansea University and Katy Tapper from City University London recruited participants for the study. Participants included people who were actually looking to break their bad habit of consuming chocolates. The participants were then divided into 3 groups:

  1. Cognitive “defusion” group: 45 participants
  2. Acceptance group: 45 participants
  3. Control group: 45 participants

In case of first group i.e. cognitive “defusion” group, 45 participants out of 135 were taught that ‘they were not their thoughts’. This is what’s referred to as cognitive “defusion”. The participants were made to imagine that they were actually the driver of a bus and all the disturbing & difficult thoughts were passengers. For the next 5 days the participants were given a bag full of chocolates. They were asked to carry with them the bag at all times and whenever they felt cravings they should practice the ‘mind bus technique’. In case of second group i.e. acceptance group, a technique called ‘urge surfing’ was introduced. In the following technique participants were instructed to accept all the uncomfortable thoughts they were having regarding eating chocolates and not control them. In case of last and third group i.e. control group, participants were instructed to control their thoughts and practice any relaxation technique to overcome the cravings. The participants of the study were asked to keep a diary to record all the chocolate consumption.

In the study it was concluded that the first group ate lesser chocolate compared to the other two groups. In other words, participants who followed the ‘mind-bus’ technique ate lesser chocolate during the period of 5 days when compared with the participants who were asked to control and acknowledge their urges.

Mind-bus technique beyond the chocolate consumption

It is important to note that the mind-bus technique is not limited to controlling chocolate urges or cravings of any bad food for that matter. We can apply it to any situation that involves negative thoughts. So, you can always apply the technique by following these steps:

  1. Think for a while a negative situation you want to resolve.
  2. Write down 3-5 negative thoughts involving that particular situation.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine you being a driver of a bus and all the negative/disturbing thoughts as passengers.
  4. Assign each of the negative thoughts a different voice, a different personality.
  5. Imagine you telling each of those thoughts things like, “Thank you for your kind suggestion. But I am the driver of this bus and this bus is under my control.”
  6. Visualize that you are letting those thoughts get off the bus one by one at different bus stops.

The research is not a panacea to controlling all our bad habits or negative life situations. Definitely, there are many flaws in the research (for an instance, participants selected for the study were already motivated and firm to let go off their consumption of chocolates so intrinsic motivation could have played a role. Therefore, it is not plausible to say that mind-bus technique was solely responsible for cutting down chocolate consumption of the participants). Nevertheless, we can try to become driver of the bus!!