Healthier Lifestyle? Habits Make the Difference
Well, well…bad habits – everybody has some, nobody wants them, but it’s hard to get rid of most. Even if we plan on changing certain aspects of our daily life – whether to be more active or eat healthier – mostly, we fall back quickly into our old, lazy habitual patterns. A British study deals with the question of how to escape this dilemma.
In the study of the University of Cambridge, the researchers proceeded from the assumption that we act out of usual habits, for the most part. That means we rather act according to our usual, unconscious habitual behaviour than according to rational alternatives, as the first one can be mostly realised quicker and with less complication. It is easier, for example, to take the elevator instead of going up the stairs; eating candy while watching TV also happens often unconsciously. There is an ongoing inner conflict between the actual, long-term resolution, like a healthy lifestyle, and the direct, short-term “reward”, such as comfort, convenience or sweet treats.
How do I escape from my usual, lazy habits?
Dealing with that question, the scientists concluded that well-meant speeches and recommendations are not very successful. An appeal to people’s rational side usually only has a short-term effect. Simple tricks, by which healthy habits are established almost unconsciously, are more effective. True to the motto: “If you want to change people, you have to make it easy for them”, the researchers conducted a few behavioural tests. Turning off one of several elevators, or causing the elevator doors to shut more slowly resulted in more people taking the stairs. Furthermore, if the salad bar at buffets was placed right in front, the sweet desserts in the back were neglected more often.
Simple, healthy tricks
But the environment is not the only source of impact on our decisions. Everybody can begin at home by gradually ridding themselves of unhealthy habits and making a place for a health-conscious routine. Storing crisps and biscuits at the back of the shelf and putting fresh fruits nearby the couch is already a start. Or you can leave the car safely parked behind more often when you want to run some errands.
(Image: © Claudia Paulussen – Fotolia.com)