Two of my favorite behavioral scientists have been on the media circuit recently discussing the science of behavior change, including the science of New Year’s resolutions.

Building new habits

Wendy Wood, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, and author of Good Habits, Bad Habits explains how habits form, and why they take time:

“When we repeat an action over and over again in a given context and then get a reward when you do that, you are learning very slowly and incrementally to associate that context with that behavior,” she says.

Last week she tweeted:

“New Years Tip: Building good habits can take effort. But take heart, in the beginning, when the action is the hardest to do, your habit memory is learning the most! Putting in more effort means you’re getting more out of it!”

If you’re interested learning more about how to develop effective habits that increase fruit and vegetable consumption, check out this story on how habits are the ultimate way to making enjoying more fruits and vegetables easy.

Building on old habits

Katy Milkman, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative has discussed a great way to take advantage of existing habits – link a new behavior to it.

Her example involved how, years ago, she remembered to brush her newborn son’s teeth. She and her husband were having trouble building it into a new routine. A reporter describes their solution:

“So they linked the chore with two routines they already did without fail: leaving the house in the morning and using his asthma inhaler at night. Adding in toothbrushing to these two tasks made it a seamless part of their day.”

The same “trick” can work with fruit and veggie consumption: add specific eating occasions onto some existing routines like leaving the house, leaving school or work, arriving home, watching TV, etc.

You can read more about these and other tips through our Create Better Resolutions series. Happy New Year!

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