What healthy habits do you want, but can’t seem to follow through with?
Most of us already know plenty of things we should do—and sure enough, most of us don’t do them. So, how do we square that circle?
If you know what’s good for you…
In order to understand this, we should start by considering the power of the mundane.
Most of our habits are formed unconsciously. For the most part, this is a good thing. Through repetition, we develop the muscle memory that simplifies necessary functions of daily life and saves cognitive effort. The flipside of that coin: once formed, habits are extremely durable, for better or worse—and we’re not always great judges of which is which.
When trying to change unconscious behaviors, your conscious mind is trying to win an argument with a toddler. Logic alone will only get you so far. So where can you turn instead?
What the mind thinks it wants
For decades, Psychologists have studied the phenomenon of “Miswanting”. Writing for the American Psychological Association, Brett Pelham explained miswanting like this:
“the problem is not that people do not know the difference between apple pie and a knuckle sandwich. Instead, miswanting refers to the fact that people sometimes make mistakes about how much they will like something in the future. That is, people often mispredict the duration of their good and bad feelings.”
How did we get so bad at knowing ourselves?
Dr. Daniel T. Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, has explored miswanting and related patterns for most of his career. He argues the trouble is related to a lack of social connection. In a 2009 experiment, Gilbert and a team of researchers found that people could predict their own future emotional response to an event if they knew how a neighbor responded to that event.
Translation: people who were more in tune with the emotions of others nearby were also better attuned to their own emotional state.
This observation has huge implications for older Americans. Long before 2020 made “social distancing” a global buzzword, American seniors were battling an epidemic of loneliness. According to the National Academies of Science and Medicine, 1 in every 4 seniors in America is socially isolated. Isolation doesn’t only threaten emotional health: according to the CDC, social isolation harms health outcomes as much as smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise.
Beyond valuable insight into behavioral psychology mental and bodily health—and the connections between each—this should also be a call to action. Unfortunately, most cities, suburbs and towns across America weren’t built with senior living in mind. This is where senior living facilities can play a life-changing role. By literally bringing people together, senior living communities can improve health outcomes, improve emotional self-awareness, and even improve your ability to actualize meaningful change in your behaviors.
If you are interested in senior living arrangements, we invite you to consider SavaSeniorCare. Learn more about our residential centers and care services at our website: https://savaseniorcare.com/approach/levels-of-care.html
For more information on practical steps to change behaviors, this AARP article is an excellent resource.