Navigation Links
Healthy habits die hard: In times of stress, people lean on established routines -- even healthy ones
Date:5/27/2013

Stress and exhaustion may turn us into zombies, but a novel study shows that mindless behavior doesn't just lead to overeating and shopping sprees it can also cause us to stick with behaviors that are good for us.

Across five experiments appearing in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, the researchers provide an important new twist to the established idea that we have finite resources for self-regulation, meaning it's harder to take control of our actions when we're already stressed or tired.

Turns out we're just as likely to default to positive habits, such as eating a healthy breakfast or going to the gym, as we are to self-sabotage. Led by Wendy Wood and David Neal of USC, this research shows that lack of control doesn't automatically mean indulgence or hedonism it's the underlying routine that matters, for better or worse.

"When we try to change our behavior, we strategize about our motivation and self-control. But what we should be thinking about instead is how to set up new habits. Habits persist even when we're tired and don't have the energy to exert self-control," says Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at USC, who holds joint appointments in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the USC Marshall School of Business.

Wood, who serves as vice dean for social sciences at USC Dornsife, is one of the world's leading experts on habit, the automatic behaviors that make it possible for us to function everyday (imagine if we had to relearn every morning how to brush our teeth or what route to take to work).

Learned habits also play a big role in our health; research has shown that exercise, overeating and smoking are significant risk factors for major diseases. Indeed, obesity and smoking are the two primary reasons Americans die before people in other high-income countries, according to a recent National Academy of Sciences report led by Eileen Crimmins of the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

But while most disease prevention efforts focus on self-control, the latest research from Wood shows that the best way to prevent disease might be knowing how to let go: "Everybody gets stressed. The whole focus on controlling your behavior may not actually be the best way to get people to meet goals," she said. "If you are somebody who doesn't have a lot of willpower, our study showed that habits are even more important."

For example, in one experiment Wood and her co-investigators followed students for a semester, including during exams. They found that during testing periods, when students were stressed and sleep-deprived, they were even more likely to stick to old habits. It was as if they didn't have the energy to do something new, Wood explains.

Students who ate unhealthy breakfasts during the semester such as pastries or doughnuts ate even more of the junk food during exams. But the same was true of oatmeal eaters: those in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast were also more likely to stick to routine and ate especially well in the morning when under pressure.

Similarly, students who had a habit of reading the editorial pages in the newspaper everyday during the semester were more likely to perform this habit during exams even when they were limited in time. And regular gym-goers were even more likely to go to the gym when stressed.

"You might expect that, when students were stressed and had little time, they wouldn't read the paper at all, but instead they fell back on their reading habits," Wood says. "Habits don't require much willpower and thought and deliberation."

Wood continues: "So, the central question for behavior change efforts should be, how can you form healthy, productive habits? What we know about habit formation is that you want to make the behavior easy to perform, so that people repeat it often and it becomes part of their daily routine."


'/>"/>

Contact: Suzanne Wu
suzanne.wu@usc.edu
213-740-0252
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Scott Tischler of Tischler Brothers Fitness Unveils the 7 Rules to a Healthy Diet
2. Fresh Healthy Vending Receives Recent National and Local Media Focus
3. How to Stay Healthy While Traveling
4. hCGTreatments / Diet Doc hCG Diets & Weight Loss Plans Offers Safe and Healthy New Fast Weight Loss Alternative for At-Risk Heart Disease Patients
5. Max! Healthy Vending Machines in Tune with Burgeoning Organic Foods Market
6. How To "Make Your Own Healthy Energy Bars"
7. Addiction to unhealthy foods could help explain the global obesity epidemic
8. How healthy are you for your age?
9. Americans Still Making Unhealthy Choices: CDC
10. hCGTreatments / Diet Doc hCG Diets & Weight Loss Plans Break the Cycle of Obesity and Weight Gain With New Education For Patients on How to Lose Weight the Healthy Way
11. Weight Loss Secrets
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/12/2016)... San Rafael, CA (PRWEB) , ... February 12, 2016 , ... ... camps outside Des Moines, Iowa. Legacy Golf Club, located in Norwalk, serves as the ... Teacher of the Year, Rob Randall. , “We have had successful camps in recent ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... The aging ... field of long term care. With that, says Patrick Loughney, president of ... administrative roles in long term care environments. His company, which offers prep courses ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... With the exception of restorative dentistry, to date there ... With the recent approval by the FDA, there is a now a new protocol ... varnish, SDF is very simple and quick to apply. The application is as simple ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... Weight Loss System, a product marketed as a weight loss dietary supplement, is being ... Angeles medical group Beverly Hills Physicians, because there is not a single supplement on ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... , ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... performing a wide range of cosmetic procedures. Along with performing procedures, the magazine ... and results of many cosmetic procedures. One of the most common procedures he ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/12/2016)... February 12, 2016 ... auf den ungedeckten medizinischen Bedarf bei Lungen- ... seines klinischen Forschungsprogramms bekannt. Das Programm, das ... Verbesserungen ihrer respiratorischen Funktionen und anderer klinischer ... ein Medizintechnikunternehmen, das sich auf den ungedeckten ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... 2016 Stem cells are primitive cells found ... and the capacity to differentiate into mature cell types ... the first mouse embryonic stem cells were derived from ... that the first culturing of embryonic stem cells from ... produced until 2006 As a result of these discoveries, ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... has committed to provide drug disposal kiosks in ... as part of a program to combat drug ... organization As You Sow. Conrad MacKerron , Senior ... to unneeded drugs because they lack easily accessible collection and ... Conrad MacKerron , Senior Vice President at As You ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: