Successful new habits

Are you wanting to make some lifestyle changes?

You may be contemplating stopping doing something (maybe over-eating, or to stop working punishing hours), or perhaps to start doing something different (do more exercise, spend more time with family).

Either way, we know from the scientific research on behaviour change that we are more likely to succeed if we follow these guidelines.

1. Set up or start a new behaviour, rather than trying to stop an existing one.

For example, I’m more likely to see changes if I make a plan to start eating more fruit and vegetables than deciding to eat less junk food. This also means I’m giving myself messages to do something, rather than to stop doing something – perhaps it means I’m likely to feel less deprived, and therefore more likely to be successful.

2. Focus on new habits that are important to us.

Knowing our personal style and motivations are useful here. Am I someone who is slow and steady who will do well with clear goals, small steps and can motivate myself? Or do I tend to do better choosing a gigantic goal and recruiting a team around me to keep me on track?

3. Keep SMART goals in mind


S – specific and support
M – measurable and meaningful to you
A – achievable and action-oriented
R – realistic (possible for you)
T – time frames

4. Practise the habit often, ideally every day or more.

Researchers from University College London found that it took between 18 and 254 days for something new to become a habit – depending on how easy or difficult the new habit was – with 66 days being the average. The researchers also found that frequent early practice was more likely to make the new habit stick. (http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php).

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