Changing bad habits has a domino effect

People who attempt to change one of their bad habits may find the action helps to alter other tendencies they wish to rid themselves of. This is the suggestion of new research published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, which showed tweaking habits can have a domino effect.

Investigators from Northwestern University explained individuals who make an effort to reduce the time they spend on the couch will therefore eat less junk food.

The team noted adults can enjoy two-for-one benefits when they make a positive lifestyle choice, as those who cut down their sedentary leisure time will be less prone to snacking while sat in front of the television.

Bonnie Spring, a Professor of Preventative Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, observed: "Just making two lifestyle changes has a big overall effect and people don't get overwhelmed."

Professor Spring added the findings are useful because it can often be difficult for individuals to know where to begin implementing changes.

Professor Ben Fletcher from the University of Hertfordshire has been writing about the 'domino effect' for 10 years, notably in the book Love not Smoking: Do Something Different. He says

"The persisting effects described are important, but I suspect they are not due to the reasons suggested by Spring and her colleagues. Bad habits are linked in a behaviour-chain with neutral behaviours, so if you can disrupt an earlier neutral behaviour this will reduce the likelihood of a person engaging in the 'bad' habit. This is the basis of our successful Do Something Different approach to weight loss and giving up smoking.

"I would guess the reason people continued to show health improvements after the intervention is over is not because the required changes were small steps, but because they broke the behavioural chain keeping the unhealthy habit in place. If you want to change behaviour, change behaviours, I would suggest, not thinking."