Habits can be contagious. How to make that work for you.
Many studies show that quitting smoking and losing weight spread through networks like diseases do (see links below). Many other behavioral changes work similarly.
I like academic studies, but we don’t just want information. We want to use it to improve our lives. Here’s how.
Make behavior you want into habits
Trying to change behavior through willpower alone doesn’t work in the long term, as my series on willpower described. Willpower gives out. Making new behavior stick in the long term requires making it automatic.
Today’s tip is to use your relationships or make new ones to reinforce the behaviors you want.
Make your habits contagious
Think of the behaviors you have now that you like. Maybe some habits you like started out of the blue, but I bet people you know passed many to you, which then you passed to others. Think of how you started them. Answer a few questions and see if they didn’t come to you from others.
- Do you have a behavior you love that was hard to start but now habitual?
- Did you learn it from someone?
- Are you grateful to them and think about them when you do it?
- Did you pass it to someone?
- Does that passing help sustain you?
- Are they grateful to you?
Do you see how the person who passed it to you helped create it and helps you maintain it? Likewise, do you see how your passing it on helped create more of it in your world and thereby help sustain it more?
The lesson? To bring behaviors into your life and make them stick
- Create relationships that bring them to you
- How? Make new friends or cultivate new parts of existing friendships
- Share what you like about them with your friends
- Why? It makes you accountable and it makes your world more supportive
Tomorrow: examples of behaviors I made habitual in my life
- Harvard Gazette: Recent longitudinal study: Smoking is addictive, quitting is contagious
- Medical News Today: Quitting smoking is socially contagious
- Time: Quitting smoking is contagious
- ABC: Weight loss can be contagious — study
- Nature: Teammates and social influence affect weight loss outcomes in ateam-based weight loss competition
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