What do we know from behaviour change research that can help us strengthen the behaviours that enhance our wellbeing?
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, aim for a new behaviour or positive action instead of trying to stop a behaviour you don’t want. For example, “I am going to try and schedule recovery breaks during my day”, instead of, “I shouldn’t work all day at my desk”.
Secondly – what’s your motivation for the new behaviour? What makes it important to you? Perhaps, “I want to be less fatigued at the end of the day so I have some energy for my family.”
Generally, we know from behavioural science that when we align behaviours to our values, we are more likely to action them, stick with them and try again when we slip up. Reminding myself how important my family is to my life and wellbeing will help my motivation to practise my new behaviour – take more recovery breaks.
What else helps?
- Practise, practise, practise! Repeating the new behaviour as often as possible helps strengthen the neural connections for the behaviour pattern. The more practice you do, the stronger this connection becomes and the more likely your new behaviour becomes automatic (requiring less effort and energy).
- Research on forming new behaviours has also found that early practice is helpful and leads to greater increases in automaticity. So the rule of thumb here is to action the new behaviour as much as possible. Planning and taking several short recovery breaks during the day is likely to embed the behaviour faster than one break each day, for example.
- Look for early evidence that this new behaviour is paying off. Maybe you can concentrate better immediately after a recovery break, or you notice you are less irritable with your family in the evening. You may want to write down these pay-offs to help you pay attention to them, and give yourself credit for making these changes.
- Set up reminders or cues to help you remember to practise the new behaviour. This could be some form of alarm, or a prompt from a colleague, anything that you will pay attention to (rather than ignore!).