Tips on how you keep your new year's resolution2023-12-28
Exercise more, eat healthier or perhaps become a more conscious consumer. New year's resolutions can lead to valuable behavior change – if you succeed.
– Breaking old habits and maintaining new ones is difficult, but there are three things to keep in mind to increase the chances of success – capabilities, context and motivation, says Professor Per Kristensson.
Many people have a desire to stop or start with a specific behaviour related to their health, finances or the environment. But successfully maintaining a new behaviour is no easy task, according to Per Kristensson, Professor of Consumer Psychology and Innovation at the Service Research Center (CTF) at Karlstad University.
Why is it so difficult to succeed with a behavioural change?
– That's a Nobel Prize question without a simple answer. A crucial distinction is whether you or someone else wants you to make the change, which will affect your motivation. But even if you are motivated, success is far from guaranteed. Most people who have tried to eat healthier, exercise more or spend less money would probably agree.
– The most common way to change other people's behaviour is through nagging, or more precisely, knowledge. However, when we repeat knowledge often, the recipient perceives it as nagging. Take, for example, the 'Keep Your Distance' campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, where knowledge about the new desired behaviour was conveyed everywhere through advertising campaigns and stickers. Yet, it was challenging for many to follow the new desired behaviour and keep a distance.
What is the reason for this?
– One factor is that our brain has a built-in energy economy. This means that many behaviours become routine without us having to think, which saves energy and leads us to fall into familiar behaviours that are easy to perform. Surely, you've thought at some point, 'I'll just have one cookie or a handful of crisps,' and a minute later, you've caught yourself having eaten several cookies or handfuls of crisps. We don't always succeed in controlling the behaviour we initially decided on.
How can we increase the chances of success?
– There's no 'this is how you do it’ miracle medicine since research underlines that there are too many eventualities that can occur. However, there are three factors to keep in mind to increase the likelihood of success:
1. Capabilities: First, we need to know why we need to make a behavioural change. We also need the ability to perform the new desired behaviour and get some practice in how to do it.
2. Context: Few can succeed with a behaviour change without supportive structures in their environment. We need structures in our surroundings that promote desired behaviours or hinder undesired ones. If you want to stop eating cookies, do not have any at home. If you want to start exercising after work, pack your bag the night before.
3. Motivation: It is a clear advantage if we find the desired behaviour desirable and good for us, that makes us motivated and we are not doing it for someone else's sake.
– Learning to drive a car is a good example of behaviour change. First, we go to driving school for knowledge and training. Then, we get assistance from the context, such as road markings, traffic signals, and signs, and we feel motivated to drive the car to reach a specific place.