Forming a habit is a marathon, not a sprint

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Experts also advise having a coping plan, in which you brainstorm potential obstacles that may arise and come up with ways to surmount them. ("If my friend wants me to skip my noon walk and go to lunch, I'll make a coffee date with her for later in the afternoon.")

You'll know you've formed a habit when it feels strange not to take that walk or drink that glass of water.

Or if you find yourself staring in the mirror, blank-eyed, with clean teeth and a string of used dental floss in your hand.

Breaking a habit

Emboldened by my success in establishing a flossing habit, I asked for expert assistance in breaking my snacking-while-channel-surfing habit.

Psychologist James Claiborn, author of "The Habit Change Workbook: How to Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones," suggested that I consider what I'm getting out of my mindless snacking, under what circumstances I do it and whether there's a more healthful habit that might offer the same rewards.

Since the snacking was giving me a little mood boost and a little selfish "me" time at the end of a busy day, I tried a minor beauty routine which only made me feel, well, ready to snack. Since I tend to eat when I'm bored by what's on TV, I tried watching shows I actually wanted to see. That was a little better, but not much.

Claiborn suggested that I keep a record of when I eat while watching TV and why, which I couldn't make myself do, but I did have a breakthrough of sorts one morning when I was taking a shower. The breakthrough went something like this: "Hey, I like taking a shower. I get a little mood boost from taking a shower. This is selfish 'me' time."

I switched shower time to the evening, after the kids were in bed, and — lo and behold — emerged with zero interest in hitting the refrigerator.

Now if only I can repeat that result 65 more times, I may have a new habit.

nschoenberg@tribune.com