The England international, who has struggled with persistent injuries in recent years, joined the south coast club in a season-long loan move on deadline day in search of regular playing time.
Howie said: "He's picked a very brave decision for me.
"He's gone to a smaller club, he's gone somewhere where there's not everything here, there's not everything done for him.
"It's slightly old-fashioned in the way that it's like a step back in time for him compared with the facilities and resources of other Premier League clubs and I think he deserves a huge amount of credit for that.
"I believe our environment can be good for him because the players work incredibly hard, they push themselves to improve and that's healthy for any footballer."