Don’t miss the news about the winner of this week’s giveaway on Monday’s post, and check in with us next Monday for another fun giveaway!
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On Monday, Kelli posted on The Power of Habit, a book that has been passed around our office and has generated interesting conversation. We rely on habits to help us make it through our days, so that the activities we do regularly are not as taxing to accomplish and so that we can run on autopilot when we need to.
In the book, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits: small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives. Keystone habits have a ripple effect into other parts of life, creating positive change unexpectedly. And who doesn’t want this whole behavior change challenge to be a bit easier?
Two keystone habits that Duhigg highlights are exercise and food journaling. On exercise:
“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why…‘Exercise spills over,’ said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. ‘There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.’” (p. 109)
Once people invest time and energy in exercise, it appears that they are set up to make other beneficial changes, even without consciously doing it.
Food journaling seems a little more clear cut: if someone is focusing on weight loss, keeping track of what they eat increases the intrinsic reward of good behavior by creating an extrinsic reward, which is seeing the food consumption documented. But researchers of a large weight-loss study were surprised to see just how effective it was, and how it influenced other behaviors:
“It was hard at first [writing down everything one day per week]. The subjects forgot to carry their food journals, or would snack and not note it…Eventually, it became a habit. Then something unexpected happened. The participant started looking at their entries and finding patterns they didn’t know existed. Some noticed they always seemed to snack at about 10 a.m., so they began keeping an apple or banana on their desks for mid-morning munchies. Others started using their journals to plan future menus, and when dinner rolled around, they ate the healthy meal they had written down, rather than junk food from the fridge.” (p. 120)
The chore of recording food was difficult at first — as all new habits are. But researchers found that six months into the study, people who kept food records daily lost twice as much weight as everyone else! And because of their heightened awareness, they were primed to make additional positive changes to their behavior.
Exercise and food journaling are just two examples of keystone habits, and they’re by no means simple to implement. But they’ve been shown to serve as catalysts for other changes.
What are the keystone habits that set you up for flourishing?