The Science behind Resolutions
Here we are . . . in a new year! It is a time for starting fresh and making resolutions. I hope your resolutions last longer than mine do! We are 9 days into the New Year, and I have already blown mine!
I heard an interesting story on NPR about changing behaviors and thought it gave insight into being able to keep our resolutions, especially if the resolution involves changing a bad behavior (and whose isn’t?).
Psychologists believed for many years that you had to change people’s intentions and goals in order to change their behavior. Much of the research was on how to change people’s attitudes (public health campaigns or social pressure), assuming that behavior change would then happen.
What we now know is that changed behaviors follow a change in attitude only in behaviors that you don’t perform very frequently, such as donating blood. This sequence does not work for behaviors that you engage in frequently, such as smoking.
The researchers explained that when you engage in a behavior often, especially in the same setting, our “physical environments come to shape our behavior.” For example, if you snack when you watch TV, then just sitting on the sofa could initiate the desire to snack. (Finally, that explains it! My sofa actually reaches out, grabs me, and sticks chips in my hand!)
Research indicates that to change a bad behavior you should “disrupt the environment in some way. Even a small change can help, like eating ice cream with your nondominant hand.” (This means I can never go into my kitchen again!)
So as you approach your New Year’s resolutions, start with small changes and gradually add alterations to how you typically do things.
There is a saying we use in behavior trainings that seems appropriate here:
Think BIG, start SMALL, and go SLOW!
Wishing you successful resolutions!