Now, be honest, are you a creature of habit? Think back to yesterday. How much of it was a repetition of the day before?

Psychologists reckon as much as 95% of our days are made up of habits. Repeated patterns of behaviour. Doing and saying the same things. No wonder we get into a rut. And research I’ve been conducting shows that if we can break free from our rut, drop some habits and do something different, our lives will be happier and healthier.

 

For example, in a published study I reported that people who are more habitual also tend to weigh more. Our research team thought that if we could increase people’s behavioural flexibility their BMI might go down – in other words, they would lose weight. This is exactly what we found. People changed a small habit every day for 28 days. They all lost weight. And they kept the weight off. And at the end of the programme they were also less anxious and depressed than they were at the start. The Do Something Different weight loss programme is in The No Diet Diet (Orion, 2006) and now available in 23 languages worldwide. We’ve gone on to apply the technique to other behaviours, including money management in Sheconomics (Hodder, 2009) and smoking in Love Not Smoking: Do Something Different (Hay House, 2011).

So don’t even think about using willpower to change any aspect of yourself. Who has any willpower anyway? I don’t think it exists! It’s much easier to Do Something Different. This weakens old habits and puts new, healthier ones in their place. Why not try one of these today?

  • Sing with your granny
  • Tell a joke to a stranger
  • Buy an unusual magazine and read it
  • Wear odd socks for a day
  • Contact a long lost friend
  • Dance under the stars
  • Play louder music
  • Get a temporary tattoo and wear it somewhere visible
  • Sleep on the other side (or end) of the bed
  • Pick CDs at random and play track 8
  • Do something you enjoyed as a child
  • Go barefoot
  • Turn up at the cinema and watch the next film that’s starting

Remember, if you want to get something different, you have to do something different.

Karen Pine is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. You can find out more about her work at www.karenpine.com