Five rules from psychology to help keep your new year's resolutions

We are creatures of habit. Between a third and a half of our behavior is habit according to research estimates. Unfortunately, our bad habits affect our health, wealth, and happiness.

On average it takes 66 days to form a habit. However, positive behavior changes are more difficult than self-help books would lead us to believe. Just 40% of people can maintain their New Years resolution after just six months 20% of dieters maintain long-term weight loss.

Education does not effectively promote behavior change. A Review of 47 studies found that it is relatively easy to change a person’s goals and intentions, but it is much more difficult to change their behavior. Strong habits are often unconsciously activated In response to social or ecological information, we go to the supermarket, for example about 211 times a yearbut most of our purchases are habitual.

With that in mind, there are five ways you can keep your New Year’s resolutions whether you’re taking better care of your body or your bank balance.

Prioritize your goals

Willpower is a finite resource. Resisting temptation exhausts our willpower and leaves us vulnerable to influences that cause it reinforce our impulsive behaviors.

A common mistake is that we are too ambitious with our New Year’s resolutions. It’s best to prioritize goals and focus on behavior. The ideal approach is to make small, incremental changes that replace the habit with behavior that provides a similar reward. Diets that are too rigid, for example, require a lot of willpower to follow.

Change your routines

Habits are embedded in routines. So disrupt routines can lead us to adopt new habits. For example, important life events such as changing jobs, moving house, or having a child encourage new habits as we are forced to adapt to new circumstances.

While routines can increase our productivity and stabilize our social life, they should be chosen with care. People who live alone have stronger routines So, if you throw a dice to make your decisions at random, you can upset your habits.

Our environment also influences our routines. For example, we eat popcorn in a movie theater without thinking about it, but not in a meeting room. Similarly, reduce the size of your storage containers and the plates that you serve food on can help combat overeating.

Monitor your behavior

“Vigilant surveillance” seems to be the most effective strategy for combating strong habits. Here people actively monitor their goals and regulate their behavior in response to various situations. A Meta-analysis of 100 studies found that self-monitoring was the best of 26 different tactics used to promote healthy eating and exercise.

Another Meta-analysis of 94 studies informs us that “implementation intent” are also very effective. These personalized “If x, then y” rules can counteract the automatic activation of habits. For example, when I want to eat chocolate, I have a glass of water.

Implementation intentions multiple options are very effective as they offer the flexibility to adapt to situations. For example: “When I want to eat chocolate, I have (a) a glass of water, (b) eat some fruit; or (c) go for a walk ”.

However, negatively framed implementation intentions (“If I want to eat chocolate, I don’t eat chocolate”) can be counterproductive, as people have to suppress a thought (“Don’t eat chocolate”). Ironically, trying to suppress a thought actually kills us rather think about it This increases the risk of habits like binge eating, smoking and drinking.

deflection is another approach that can break habits. It is also effective to concentrate on the positive aspects of the new habit and the negative aspects the problem habit.

Imagine your future self

To make better decisions, we need to overcome our tendency to prefer rewards now rather than later – psychologists call this ours “Current Bias”. One way to combat this tendency is to future-proof our decisions. Our future selves tend to be virtuous and embrace long-term goals. In contrast, our present selves often have short-term, situational goals. There are ways around this, however.

For example, setting up a direct debit on a savings account is effective because it is a one-time decision. In contrast, eating decisions are problematic because of their high frequency. Our eating habits are often impaired by circumstances or situational stress. Planning ahead is important because we are returning to our old habits put under pressure.

Set goals and deadlines

Setting self-imposed deadlines or goals helps us change our behavior and form new habits. Let’s say you save a certain amount of money every month. Deadlines work particularly well when they are tied to self-imposed deadlines Rewards and penalties for good behavior.

Another way to increase motivation is to use the power of peer pressure. Websites like stickK You can post your commitments online so friends can see your progress through the website or on social media (e.g., “I’ll lose a stone by May”). These are widely visible obligations that bind our colors to the mast. A financial decline due to failure (preferably payable for a reason you disapprove of) can add additional motivation.

Brian Harman, Lecturer in Marketing, De Montfort University and Janine Bosak, Professor of Organizational Psychology, Dublin City University

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.


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