Articles in Habits
The desire to fit in is a powerful shaper of behavior. In some cases, social pressures serve us well. In other cases, social pressures are lagging behind their times. Here’s how to use social pressure to extinguish four unhealthy social norms.
This is another PPND tradition: to collect suggestions from authors about ways to start the New Year. Our authors have written about building habits, starting rituals, starting small and building on, goals, satisficing, moving to action quickly, and other approaches to making year-round healthy changes stick.
Since the holiday season is upon us, you can bet that New Year’s Resolutions aren’t far off. Yet only 8% of us consistently achieve our goals for the New Year. That’s not very encouraging, but it’s also no surprise, considering that most of us will just pick a resolution and hope to achieve it without much planning. But to reverse-paraphrase Einstein, if we go about it differently this year, we can get different results. Here are 4 ideas for effectively working toward health goals.
Based both on my PhD research and on my personal experiences publishing a book with Margaret Greenberg, here are my research-based suggestions for taking incremental steps to reach important goals.
We put together the Happiness Habits program and tested it with groups as diverse as refugee parents in an inner-city school, charity volunteers, and professionals working in health and education. After several iterations we settled on 8 habits of happiness delivered in 8 weekly sessions: habits because it takes practice to make these actions automatic and 8 weeks to allow adequate time for positive changes to occur.
In a 2012 Swiss study, researchers Friese, Messner, and Shaffner tested whether a brief period of meditation would lessen the depletion effects of self-control. Their experimental group showed less ego depletion than the control group. Why? How might mindfulness affect self-regulation?
There are places where people live longer, happier and healthier lives. They are mostly in remote places such as Okinawa in Japan. On average, those who live in such places live 10 or more years longer than the average, enjoying active lives well into their 90s. What can we learn from these healthy people? The most important lesson is that people living in these geographic areas do not achieve this in isolation. The healthy choice is “the way we do things around here.”
“What can we as a country do to significantly improve the life chances of millions of poor children?” This is the question that reporter Paul Tough asks us to tackle with him in How Children Succeed. This book is passionately written and soundly researched. If Paul Tough is right, and I hope that he is, medical professionals, social workers, educators, and parents can join one another to build communities that help all of our children succeed.
We need to know when it makes sense to streamline things with simple procedures and systems, and when it makes sense to allow humans to express their creativity, perhaps risking failure, perhaps inspiring innovation. Practical wisdom pushes people to be responsible for their decisions and to learn from them. We might expose ourselves to more risks along the way, but we become a wiser society by doing so.
For this last in our holiday season series, we asked our authors and friends the following question: “What research-based advice do you have for the new year? Tips to keep in mind? Or tips that you learned from research that you yourself apply? Here’s what we heard back.