Centre for Behaviour Change


Health is Never Easy-Interview to Professor Susan Michie for Healthy Europe Magazine

1 November 2022

Susan Michie, Director of the CBC, explains why it is never easy to make healthy changes to our lives, how it can still be done nonetheless – and why she used to only wash her hair in the gym.

Woman pulling hardly to a pole in order to change a page (of her life)

Susan Michie:

"Our behaviour is often prompted by a specific situation, at a specific point in time and in a specific place. One technique that uses this is “Mental Contrasting Implementation Intention” which has four steps. The first one is to set a realistic goal. The second is to imagine the agreeable benefits of reaching this goal. It is not until the third step that we should visualise the obstacles in our way. Finally, the fourth step involves developing a plan to overcome these obstacles and reach the goal. Specific plans are more likely to be effective.  In psychology, we refer to the “intention behaviour gap” and specific plans are likely to close it, as rewarding yourself can help to reinforce this positive behaviour. I used this when I was setting up a routine for myself of going twice a week to the gym. My plan, and rule was that I could only wash my hair in the gym.  Having clean hair was a sufficient motivator to get me going regularly, and once the pattern was established, I no longer needed to link it to hair washing.."

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