According to Scientific American Magazine, researchers are pinpointing brain circuits that help us form good habits and break bad ones. Repeated behavior lays down habit circuits involving the brain's striatum.
The circuits treat the habit as a single chunk, or unit, of automatic activity. Another region of the brain, the neocortex, monitors the habit. In experiments using rats, light signals were found to interrupt a habit and prevent one from forming.
The purpose of these experiments was to learn more about how these brain structures operate and develop drugs, behavioral therapies, and simple tricks to help us control habits, good and bad.
Until then, what can we do? Avoid behaviors that you wouldn't want to turn into a bad habit. The more routine a behavior becomes, the less we are aware of it. This is why we forget if we have turned off a light or the stove. We do it without thinking.
We only want to repeat behaviors that are healthy and that we want to become habits. For instance, if you are trying to quit smoking, avoid the situations where you were previously smoking. For example, if you always went on the porch and smoked a cigarette after dinner, don't sit on the porch.
Instead, take a walk, call a friend, and put a sucker in your mouth. If you are concerned about calories, soak some toothpicks in flavored oils, like peppermint, cinnamon, or other flavors, and use this as a substitute. As a writer, my mouth gets bored when I'm sitting at my desk.
To avoid candy, I have a bottle of cinnamon oil on my desk and a package of wooden toothpicks. I let one end of the toothpick soak in the bottle and then put it in my mouth for flavor when needed. Flavorings contain no sugar; they taste great and come in a variety of flavors.
To encourage this get rid of the candy around your desk, buy the flavorings and wooden toothpicks, and set them at your desk. Flavorings can be bought at craft stores where baking and candy-making items are sold.
Try other things like setting yourself up to perform healthy habits. Put your jogging shoes and clothes out the night before you go to bed to encourage yourself to run.
If you run a few times you might develop the chunking pattern that you want. Be creative, now form a good habit that you've been thinking about!