We all want to start the year right, but making a change is hard. Luckily, behavioral scientists have found ways to form new, healthy habits, so that maintaining a resolution is easier than ever.
Is it better to start slowly or with a bang? Two economists offered 3 groups of 40 people monetary incentives to exercise for a month. The groups were characterized by how often they needed to attend the gym in order to get the reward. In weeks to follow, the people in the group of highest attendance were still attending with double the frequency of the other groups. Therefore, even starting a new habit with unsustainable intensity can help you keep your resolution.
What if I mess up? Two marketing professors offered hundreds of people $1 for every day they completed a questionnaire, with bonuses available for reaching a certain number of days. One group needed to do 5 per week, whereas another needed all 7, but two could be missed. The group with 2 ‘mulligans’ ended up getting more bonuses, even though the requirements were the same. So if you mess up, it’s still motivating to give yourself another chance.
How do I stay motivated trying things I don’t like? Scientists have a tip: bundle it. Scientists studied the effect on frequency of gym attendance when participants were only allowed to use their iPods or audiobooks while exercising. Over several weeks, they attended 27% more times than those who didn’t bundle. Pair the good with the bad to make it through!
Managing Correspondant: Cari Cesarotti