When people fall on hard times their bad habits come out. A person who has just suffered a traumatic experience will attempt to drown out his problems by excess drinking or going with the impulse to smoke. What about good habits when do they come out? A new study says whenever the going gets tough.
A study led by Wendy Wood and David Neal, both psychology professors, of University of Southern California, followed students at the university for a whole semester to figure out what they did when overstressed.
Researchers found those students who had a habit of reading the newspaper every morning read the newspaper when stressed out by exams and homework; those students who had a habit of eating a healthy breakfast, did so; and those who had a habit of stuffing themselves in the morning with sugary treats, did just that when overly stressed. It was clear from these observations that during stressful times people fall on habits: good as well as bad habits.
“Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control,” says Ms Wood, one of the researchers. People who have good habits naturally fall on them in moments of anxiety and exhaustion.
In the ancient world, when Aristotle wrote, it was obvious to most citizens that good habits formed good character, so much so that that philosopher said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”