Should habit change take on more than one habit at a time- research supports taking on more

The New York Times published “Out With the Old” on May 12, 2016. This article reports on interesting research published in March in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, “Pushing the Limits: Cognitive, Affective, and Neural Plasticity Revealed by an Intensive Multifaceted Intervention.” The entire original article is available online, but is fairly long and the NYT article provides an excellent summary.

This research challenged traditional assumptions that most people do best when changing a single habit, such as only working on improving their diet or increasing their activity level, and not doing both at the same time. The study put 31 subjects, college students of course, through a remarkably comprehensive daily training program that included, just in the morning, structured stretching, resistance training and balance exercises, mindfulness training, a second workout in the afternoon, and twice-weekly intense interval training workouts. The program lasted for 6 weeks.  Of course, subjects were compared to a control group. Remarkably, even though you might expect the subjects to be overwhelmed by such a comprehensive program, they were found to be significantly healthier at the end of the six-week study, and they maintained their remarkable health benefits at a six-week follow-up assessment. The assessments include cognitive as well as physical tests. The study’s lead author is quoted to assess the results as suggesting, “the limits of the human capacity for change may be much greater than we, as scientists, have given people credit for.”

MHconcierge’s take: when our patients/clients would benefit from changing more than just one habit, we could potentially review this research with them and to discuss the possibility that they may be more capable of change than they assume about themselves.

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