When willpower is not enough. A great podcast on making little changes

It’s that time of year again. There’s something particularly cruel about the weird combination of the pressure to become a new, better person and the complete lack of motivation that comes with two straight weeks of eating cheese and watching terrible movies.

There’s lot of advice on mental wellbeing doing the rounds just now. Lists of five, seven, sixteen, twenty-one (!) ways to have better mental health in 2016. Most of them include some pretty good advice, but the idea that if we can just tick off a list to good mental health is unrealistic. The New Year, new me articles encourage us to believe we are completely responsible for our own mental wellbeing and by implication, to blame for our poor mental health.

Of course, real life is a bit more complicated. We all know that is we got more exercise, let go of our anger and were more grateful, we’d feel happier. But it’s usually the days when you’re feeling okay anyway that it’s easiest to do those things. These lists kind of ignore the very real challenges that many people face, which are outwith our control.

So, it was great to hear this podcast from Freakonomics . It takes a positive and realistic look at the challenges of changing your habits and suggests some practical advice for staying motivated. The idea of “temptation bundling” is fascinating. While most incentives are about punishments or rewards for so-called good or bad behaviour, it suggests combining the things you don’t want to do with things you do to make them more appealing. So, you might watch your favourite telly programme while you exercise. Or listen to this podcast while you do the dishes. Enjoy.

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