Is there a better way to make new resolutions stick?

Is there a better way to make new resolutions stick?

“Run. Work on doctorate.” So begin all my to-do lists but progress is elusive. With New Year’s resolution season here – perhaps technology can make me into a more productive .


“An extraordinary amount of what we do is habit,” says Brendan Kelly, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin.


It is estimated that between 45% and 95% of what we do is habitual, “but I’d reckon towards the higher end of that range,” says Prof Kelly.


We act according to our habits, “from the time we rise and go through our morning routines, until we fall asleep after evening routines,” says Ann Graybiel, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


We develop those habits by encoding them in a part of our brain called the striatum, which deals with reward and releases the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine, her research shows.


Now a new cohort of apps – with names like SnapHabit, Habitica and Strides – reckon we can reprogram our habits to improve our lives and be happier.

An ‘extraordinary’ amount of what we do comes down to habit, says Brendan Kelly

SnapHabit, for instance, arrives with two default habits: to take a daily walk, and ring a friend.


At the bottom appear “guided journeys”, or sample practices you can select to exercise in the habit app gym. For example, becoming a more committed opponent of racism is one, doing 100 press-ups a day is another.


Or, you can choose your own. I add “Run for an hour”, and “Colour two boxes” on the days I selected. It is strangely satisfying.


Short-term rewards like this are important for changing our habits, says Prof Kelly. Doing physical exercise just to be healthier “is not enough to sustain a daily habit”, he warns.

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