Just Do It! Get Rid of Old Habits All at Once


Out with the old, in with the new.

As opposed to the traditional advice of changing just one aspect of your life at a time in order to achieve optimal health, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara decided to put this minimal approach to the test. They thought maybe it would be better to address all of our bad habits at once rather than trying to make incremental changes to our lives.

Therefore, they chose 31 college students with relatively flexible schedules and put them through a series of physical, cognitive and emotional tests, and gave them brain scans. Approximately half the students then served as a control group and continued on with their daily lives as is. The other half went through a complete overhaul! Every morning they would be guided through an hour of supervised stretching, resistance training and balance exercises. This was followed by an hour of training in mindfulness and stress reduction, which included quiet walks and meditation. In the afternoon, they would exercise for an additional 90 minutes. As if that wasn’t enough, they would also complete two interval-style endurance workouts twice a week on their own! This was supplemented with lectures about nutrition and sleep and keeping daily logs on their exercise, diets, sleep patterns and moods.

After six weeks, the students retook the original tests. The results were outstanding!  The control group showed no changes. But the other half was substantially stronger, fitter, more flexible, and had increased focus and working memory. They also reported being much happier and calmer, with increased self-esteem. Clearly, the effect of changing everything all at once was extremely positive. It seemed that all the individual changes encouraged positive development in every other area as well.

What’s more, even six weeks after the experiment had come to an end, the students who had completed the life overhaul still performed even better at the original tests even though they weren’t exercising or meditating as much as they were during the experiment. We’ve definitely been underestimating our potential all this time!