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New year’s resolutions – not just willpower

It’s about swapping habits and baby steps

So 2018 is finally here, and to kick it off, we thought we’d take a look at some of the helpful advice on keeping New Year’s resolutions. Drawing from three different articles sourced by our team at BehaviourWorks, here’s some behavioural science on how to turn bad habits into good ones.

Firstly, this article in the Guardian has looked into the science behind what motivates long term changes to our behaviours, and come to the conclusion that instead of actively trying to exercise self-control, we should take up new habits that help ‘automate’ our actions – and to look into why we may take up bad habits in the first place. 

The article also asks the question – who is responsible for change? Is it just individuals themselves, or the social and cultural networks they belong to?  

The Washington Post joined the discussion with this piece written by Katherine Milkman, renown behavioural economist at the University of Pennsylvania, who puts forward two key strategies – piggybacking and temptation bundling.  Both involve linking habits you already have (like a coffee in the morning or brushing your teeth at night) with habits you want to adopt (like eating more fruit or flossing your teeth).  So it’s not about going cold turkey, it’s small steps that can lead to better, long term habits. 

And finally, this piece in Quartz suggests Tiny Habits and Easy Wins are the secret to bringing about long term change.  Training ourselves to make small adjustments (like flossing one tooth after brushing) is easy to do, and automatic.  And as any behavioural scientist will tell you, the less we have to think about decisions, the easier they are.

If one of your resolutions was to read more, this is a perfect start to 2018.

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