Easier Said Than Done: Why we struggle with healthy behaviours and what to do about it
By Nathalie Spencer
RSA, December 2015

Many of us know what we should be doing to live healthily, yet many of us struggle to actually actively manage our health.

In ‘Easier Said than Done’, we set out some of the reasons why we might find it hard to live in a healthy way, exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep, and checking for early warning symptoms. Perhaps most importantly, we look to the field of behavioural science for strategies that people can use to overcome those hurdles and to initiate lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Commitment devices, where we make it very unattractive to not follow through on an intention;
  • Temptation bundling, where we pair an indulgent behaviour with a prudent one;
  • Implementation plans, where we set out the specifics of our desired behaviour.

Changing existing behaviour can be a difficult task, but with the help of these strategies new behaviours can become habitual, facilitating a long-term sustained healthy lifestyle.

This paper, supported by Philips, is a stimulus to a broader programme of public engagement on issues of health and wellbeing at the RSA. The hope is that it will provoke thought around how to facilitate healthy living through a variety of approaches, not least by helping us to follow through on good intentions of actively managing our health.