In week 8 of this series based on the class “The Science of Well-Being,” we will discuss two strategies for creating better habits—setting goals and situation support. Most of the examples from the class were around healthy eating, but these strategies can be applied to other happiness-supporting habits as well (exercise, meditation, doing acts of kindness).
Goal setting includes specificity, visualization, and planning. Be as specific as possible when creating a goal. Using SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) is one strategy. To visualize your goal, think about the positive outcome in detail and then about possible obstacles that might deter you from reaching the goal. Then create an action plan that lays out how you will react to challenges. Use an “if-then” structure—for example, “If I see donuts in the break room, then I will eat a piece of fruit from my desk instead.” (This requires preparation on your part to make sure you have healthy snacks available, so this is why planning ahead is important.) If you run through these scenarios in your head, it will help keep you from acting on automatic urges.
Situation support includes paying attention to the situation and promoting a healthy environment. The proximity and convenience of temptations makes a large difference in how you react to them, so shape your environment to help your goals. For example, put candy in a cupboard so it is hidden, and leave fruit out on the counter so it is easily accessible. Also, fill your life with good examples by spending time with people who will participate in healthy behaviors with you. Take a walk with a friend, try out a healthy restaurant with a coworker. These will increase your social connection while also increasing accountability around habits you are trying to stick with.
Tip of the Week
Set a SMART goal for yourself, visualize the outcome, plan for possible obstacles, and make changes to your environment to set yourself up for success.