Automaticity is the hallmark of a behaviour that has become a habit. A behaviour that is automatic is done with little to no effort, it is started without hesitation, and it is completed with little difficulty. Only when a behaviour has become automatic is it truly a habit and only then is it likely to last. Brushing your teeth before bedtime is a good example of a behaviour that has become automatic. It is done without effort or hesitation each and every night (or at least most nights).
But as you know, it is very difficult to turn a new behaviour (e.g., I will exercise more) into a habit that is done without effort, without hesitation and with a high level of regularity. Try as we might, and despite all of our good intentions, it is very difficult to attain the degree of automaticity that is desired or perhaps even required.
Challenges, hurdles and disruptions
In the first part of the workshop, we will introduce you to the science of habit formation and review the different ways in which habit formation can be interrupted and disrupted. You will have an opportunity to complete some interactive questionnaires designed to help you identify the challenges you will likely face in developing a new habit — everything from your personal motivation (or lack thereof), the extent to which the people around you are supportive (or unsupportive), and the extent to which your daily routine can help or hinder your efforts in building long life habits.
In the second part of the workshop, we will ask you to select a behaviour that you would like to turn into a lasting habit.
- Getting more exercise
- Eating better
- Being more productive at school or work
- Learning to be more mindful
- Learning how to you relaxation breathing to destress
Although you can pick any activity or behaviour, we recommend that you pick a very concrete activity (e.g., walk for 20 minutes at lunch, eat more fruit and less junk food, do flashcards right after my first class, learn to use relaxation breathing whenever you are stressed). We also recommend that you specify the time and place where you will do the activity. The more explicit you are, the more likely you are to do it.
Learning the tips and strategies for success
As part of this workshop, we will also show you the essential strategies and key tips to successful habit formation, including the benefit of habit stacking and being aware of habit drift, as well as the different types and hazards of thinking traps.
Joining the Habit Builder Study
Following the workshop, you will have an opportunity to join the Habit Builder Study. Joining the study allows us to give you some feedback on how you are progressing and also enhance our own understanding of what best predicts successful habit acquisition. We will provide everyone joining the habit builder study with our detailed research summary of what works best.
Join a Habit Builder Event this year.
Registration for the next habit builder event is now open. We register all attendees through Eventbrite, and we offer three online workshops as well as one in-person workshop that takes place at the University of Ottawa. We look forward to seeing you soon, whether you join us in-person or online.
Download the worksheet
Please download and complete the worksheet. This will help you get started thinking about what new habit you would like to do. You can revise what kind of new habit you would like to build at any time. Please have your work sheet on hand for the workshop. If you forget to do it, lose it, or want to change it, don’t worry. You can complete it again on the day of the workshop.
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 9981009.
Maltz, Maxwell (1960). Psycho-Cybernetics. Simon & Schuster.
Neal, D. T., Wood, W., & Quinn, J. M. (2006). Habits—A Repeat Performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(4), 198–202.
Norcross, J. C., & Vangarelli, D. J. (1988). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1(2), 127–134.
Wood, W., & Rünger, D. (2016). Psychology of Habit. Annual Review of Psychology, 67(1), 289–314.
Wood, W. (2019). Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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