I’ve been thinking a lot about behaviour change recently. That’s fundamentally what habits are – they’re ways we behave, and the best (or sometimes worst) habits are ingrained in our daily routines.
Take brushing your teeth. The vast majority of people automatically clean their teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once before they go to bed. OK, you might miss the odd one, but it’s simple to get back on track. Why is that? Well, it’s partly because we’ve grown up doing it – it’s a natural habit. And as we get older and learn a bit more about the world, we understand that cleaning our teeth is an important part of staying healthy (and hopefully avoiding enormous dentist bills!)
Changing your behaviour is slightly different, but not necessarily any easier or more difficult. With my work hat on, I think a lot about how to encourage people to adopt healthier habits that will reduce their risk of cancer. 2 in 5 cases are preventable through a combination of not smoking, eating healthily and not being overweight, moving more, cutting back on alcohol and avoiding the sun unprotected.
Few people would disagree with that sort of list, but those measures rely on you being disciplined and having willpower. Other external forces might be stronger and more prevalent, making your good intentions very hard to keep to. The ideal is that, even if you fall off the proverbial wagon, you can easily get back on (like the teeth brushing example above). Continue reading “Why don’t we try harder to change our habits?”