The “Fresh Start” Effect: Scientist Katherine Milkman Reveals How to Maintain Our Positive Habits in 2020
Whether it’s a new season, new year, or new decade, research shows that we’re drawn to moments that offer us a “fresh start.” Unfortunately, this sense of optimism and spirit of renewal tends to fade over time. How can we maintain our energy for developing new, positive habits well into 2020? Yale professor of Psychology Laurie Santos interviews Wharton’s Katherine Milkman for The Happiness Lab to find out.
Our penchant for instant gratification makes a lot of sense when you consider it from an evolutionary standpoint, says Wharton professor and researcher Katherine Milkman. Our ancient ancestors weren't thinking about the long-term so much as they were focused on their day-to-day survival. However, flash forward to our modern environment, and it’s become much wiser for us to resist temptation, plan ahead, and generally consider the implications of today’s actions on our future selves, whether that be by eating healthier or saving for retirement.
When it comes to setting such goals or developing new habits, most people don’t start randomly. In fact, there are specific times when our minds are prone to making a fresh start. “We think ‘those were the college years’, ‘those were my thirties.’ [...] We create this narrative that makes our life seems like it flows, but that means our chapter breaks,” explains Milkman. “Those chapter breaks provide an opportunity to capitalize on that feeling of a fresh start and get people to pursue their goals with more vigor.”
In the latest episode of The Happiness Lab, Milkman explains how we can harness the psychological power of a clean slate and keep it going all year long.
Listen to the full conversation here.
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