Good pill-taking is about setting up a good habit. This page helps you understand some of the basics of how to do this. Simply click on a section to learn more.
What is a habit?
Some of these you may think of as “good”, like brushing your teeth. Some you may think of as “bad” – for example, smoking.
Without habits, it would be hard for most of us to get through the day. But when habits are formed they can be difficult to change.
Triggers and Actions
- A trigger: “When I see the kitchen cupboard, I think of chocolate.”
- An action or process: “I salivate and open the cupboard to look for the chocolate
and eat it.”
- A reward. This can be quite subtle such a feeling of having done something well or
obvious (as with the chocolate).
Without the trigger, you may not even realise you have not performed the action: “If I don’t see the cupboard, I don’t remember I want to eat chocolate.”
If you do remember, then you may not for very long: “I can’t remember if I ate chocolate from the cupboard a week ago (but I probably did).”
How long does it take to set up a habit?
It usually takes a minimum of three weeks to get this right, but that can be much longer. Setting up a new habit requires some determination and willpower, depending on how complicated it is and how much of an immediate reward there is.
In general, it is easier to set up a new habit by linking it to or altering another. For example, by always putting on a coat as well as your shoes when you go out. Habits become more complex and interlinked with time: “After I habitually raid the cupboard, I hide the chocolate wrapper so I don’t get found out and buy more.”
So how do you set up a pill-taking habit?
For event-based dosing, think about something that always happens at least two hours before you have sex – for instance, tapping on Grindr or calling your friends to talk about finding a party.
Try and take your pill or pills as soon as you think of this trigger – that is, before you perform the
Think also how you set up a routine to take your pills for two days after you last have sex. Taking the pills is more important than timing, so link it to something that always happens. Try storing your pills with your toothbrush, for example, or set a pill-taking alarm at the same time as you set your morning wake-up.
For daily dosing, take your pills before you undertake your old habit activity – so before you brush your teeth – so you can’t skip the pill-taking if something distracts you.
Remember, actually taking the pills is less important than the timing. So, if you are a shift worker, then you can still link it to tooth brushing, breakfast or something else that always happens – even if it happens at different times of day.
How do I know if I’ve missed a pill?
Work out a system where you can check later that you have taken that day’s pill. Ways of doing this include: using a dosette box, marking your pill strips Monday-Sunday with a permanent marker (unless they come in bottles), using a tick chart on paper or your phone, and taking your pill in the morning from a container with only one in and then fill it at night.
What if I miss a pill?
Most commonly, you will have missed a pill because something happened out of sequence or distracted you or you were out of your usual pill-taking situation. Think about how you might avoid this happening next time. As an example, if you missed a pill because you were away remember to put a few pills in your wallet or car as a safety supply.
When you are working out why you have missed a pill it is important to realise that the trigger can be from any sense or mental stimulus. For instance, if you miss your pills when they are tidied away by someone else then your trigger may be visual – so make sure they are always visible.