Habit Change and Lasting Recovery

The British Psychological Societies Research Digest reported on a 15 week study of 377 adults that looked into which specific behaviors helped change to stick.

Perhaps you, or someone you know wants to make changes to their drinking, substance use, smoking or overeating to cope with stress, isolating themselves rather than being with people, or believing that they cannot accomplish anything.

Helpful strategies that support the changes you want to make

Wanting change is good, but it is not enough. Experience leaves a mark on us. In other words, if we hope to change but do not regularly practice any different behaviors, our momentum will carry us towards more and more of the same.

“Change is often passive – that is, experience leaves its mark on personality.” Christian Jarrett

Having a plan is very important. A plan is like a road map in the direction you want to go. Your plan should include a few parts:

1.The plan should identify which behaviors you want to keep doing. 

2.It should be realistic – working on one or two areas at a time

3.Be honest about how much you are capable of handling right now. Try not to be too hard on yourself… or go too easy. When you begin, or when you are having a tough week, you may practice behaviors that are less challenging, but still going in the direction you want. You need to keep moving the line, adding a little more ‘weights to the bar’ or making it a little harder: practice should also include moderately challenging to very challenging behaviors.

4.Take time to check in with yourself every week: Review your progress and set some new goals.

Essentially, the study found that wanting to change is not enough. If a change is going to stick, we have to actively work on it.

“The single largest implication of our study is that actively engaging in behaviors designed to change one’s personality traits does, in fact, predict greater amounts of trait growth across time” Nathan Hudson, Lead researcher.

The rebound effect

The study held one caution: be conscious of the rebound effect. If you plan to make a change but for whatever reason it does not stick, your motivation may slide even further in the opposite direction. Researchers don’t exactly know why we sometimes take one step forward, but then later fall back two or even three steps.

To read the study, click on this link to The BPS Research Digest.

Keep it Real

Photo by yang miao on Unsplash


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