Research – Learning New Habits 2017-01-13T13:39:56+00:00

Research – Learning New Habits

The Part Our Brains Play

Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how our brains are malleable and how they have the ability to change themselves through forming new neural connections with the flow of new, repeated thoughts. This means it is possible to learn new things and change our habits – including the way we see the world and speak of it – for the better.

Rick Hanson highlights the ability to tap into the brain’s power to overcome our natural negativity bias and create lasting happiness through being intentional with our thoughts and by having a controlled use of attention. Find out more about him on his website:

Rick Hanson – Resources for Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Here Hanson sums up the information on the science of our brains and how they play a part in happiness:

How to Trick Your Brain for Happiness

Elaine Fox explores how it is possible to retrain our brains to become naturally more optimistic and resilient and how this can positively impact our lives. Find out more here:

http://www.rainybrainsunnybrain.com

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Watch this video for a short and easy to follow explanation of neuroplasticity – the term given to describe how our brains can physically be rewired, making us all capable to learn and change our habits for the better:

Neuroplasticity

The Importance of Happiness-Increasing Activities

Nancy L. Sin and Sonja Lyubomirsky conducted a meta-analysis of 51 positive psychology interventions (PPIs) with 4,266 individuals to address the question of whether these kinds of activities can actually enhance well-being and alleviate depressive symptoms. They analysed studies conducted between 1977 and 2008 that looked into the impact of PPIs on well-being and depression. The overwhelming conclusion is that these happiness-increasing exercises do indeed improve well-being and reduce depressive symptoms. The practices help people cope better with negatives in life, learn to appreciate life’s positives, and develop both cognitive strategies and emotional skills.

Discover what else Sin and Lyumbomisky uncovered here:

Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms With Positive Psychology Interventions: A Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis

Christopher Peterson, Nansook Park and Martin E.P. Seligman surveyed 845 adults over the Internet to investigate how different orientations to happiness – whether pursuing pleasure (hedonism), engagement (flow) or meaning (eudaimonia) – are associated with life satisfaction. Those who involved themselves in activities that included a combination of all three reported to have the highest level of life satisfaction, in what the authors call a “Full Life”.

Download the full study here:

Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life

For a recap on the benefits of positive activity interventions and to learn more about how they work and how to get the most out of them read Kristin Layous and Sonja Lyubomirsky’s overview here:

The How, Why, What, When, and Who of Happiness: Mechanisms Underlying the Success of Positive Activity Interventions

Find What Works For You

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kennon M. Sheldon and David Schkade suggest it is important to be intentional in the “pursuit of happiness” to overcome the possibility of hedonic adaptation – the tendency for the happiness levels in individuals to return to a base level despite positive or negative events. One activity will not suit all so it is important to work out your “strengths, interests, values, and inclinations that undoubtedly predispose them to benefit more from some strategies than others.” For example, what works well and brings joy to an extrovert may be completely different to someone who is highly motivated by nurturance.

Find the review here and learn what they have to say about how our happiness levels are governed:

Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change

Dr. BJ Fogg, a behavioural scientist who founded the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, has developed a model that suggests in order for an individual to be able to form new habits three components are needed to converge at one time: motivation, ability and trigger.

When trying to cultivate new habits, Fogg argues it is unrealistic to expect people to sustain motivation at all times, therefore we are most likely to succeed when we set ourselves tasks relevant to how motivated we feel in the moment. When we feel highly motivated we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to do the hard tasks that will ultimately structure our future behaviour. With these processes in place it means at those more common times when we’re lacking motivation, we’ve already made it easier for ourselves to stick to doing the small daily actions required that will eventually become automatic and grow into long-term change. After all, “there’s something magical about little successes.”

Visit here to learn more about BJ Fogg, The Fogg Behavior Model and his Motivation Wave:

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model

Gretchen Rubin is an author and podcaster who provides insights into the pursuit of happiness and good habits based on scientific research and her own experience in testing the teachings. She explains, “habits are the prequel to a happier life” and to do be successful at making positive change we should focus on the everyday, easy to do actions, rather than the final outcomes.

First, Rubin advocates, “we must know ourselves, so we can suit our habits to our own nature.” To do that, she believes everybody responds to rules (external and internal) differently and it’s important to know which category you fall under. Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, or Obliger? Depending on where you identify determines which strategies will work best for you when trying to form new habits.

Watch Gretchen Rubin discuss these four categories and what structures we can put in place to help us succeed:

The 4 Ways to Successfully Adopt New Habits

Learn more about Rubin, her work and her Habits Manifesto here:

Gretchen Rubin

Try a Variety

Parks et al. sought to understand better those who want to do these interventions that help improve happiness: happiness seekers. They found in one study, where participants reported on how they use 14 different happiness-increasing activities in their daily lives, that people perform between seven and eight activities regularly to improve their happiness levels. In another study, they found voluntary users of an iPhone app, which offered eight activities and a mood measurer, saw the greatest increases in their happiness when they practised a number of positive exercises.

Read more here:

Pursuing Happiness in Everyday Life: The Characteristics and Behaviours of Online Happiness Seekers

Seligman et al. tested five different exercises to see what interventions, if any, had a lasting, positive impact on people’s wellbeing. They found that following each exercise there was a decrease in the participants’ depressive symptoms and an increase in happiness. However, the effects occurred at different times, produced different amounts of positive change and lasted for varying lengths. Those who benefited the most and gained longer lasting happiness were those who spontaneously completed the exercises outside of the required one-week period, without instruction to do so.

With this in mind the authors conclude that to pave the way for lasting happiness it is important to do a variety of exercises – “it may be optimal to intersperse exercises that make an immediate impact (e.g., the gratitude visit) with those exercises that are easily integrated into the daily routine” – and find ones that fit into your life.

Read the study here:

Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions

Need Some Extra Encouragement?

James Clear is a writer and researcher on behavioural psychology, habit formation, and performance improvement. He writes weekly articles, based on scientific research, and has authored free e-books where he shares the lessons he’s learnt and how to build habits that stick.

Find more on what he has to say here:

James Clear – Habits

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Rick Hanson – Neuroplasticity
Rick Hanson – Resources for Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
http://www.rickhanson.net

How to Trick Your Brain for Happiness
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_trick_your_brain_for_happiness

Elaine Fox
http://www.rainybrainsunnybrain.com

Video on Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity

Nancy L. Sin and Sonja Lyubomirsky
Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms With Positive Psychology Interventions: A Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/SL2009.pdf

Christopher Peterson, Nansook Park and Martin E.P. Seligman
Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life
http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/43062

Kristin Layous and Sonja Lyubomirsky’s
The How, Why, What, When, and Who of Happiness: Mechanisms Underlying the Success of Positive Activity Interventions
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Layous-Lyubomirsky-in-press.pdf

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kennon M. Sheldon and David Schkade
Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/LSS2005.pdf

Dr. BJ Fogg
BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model
http://www.behaviormodel.org

Gretchen Rubin
The 4 Ways to Successfully Adopt New Habits
http://gretchenrubin.com

Parks et al.
Pursuing Happiness in Everyday Life: The Characteristics and Behaviours of Online Happiness Seekers
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/PDPZL2012.pdf

Seligman et al.
Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions
http://dev.rickhanson.net/wp-content/files/papers/PosPsyProgress.pdf

James Clear
James Clear – Habits
http://jamesclear.com/habits