Bundling Temptation

Temptation Bundling

Here at Breathing Room, we try to provide you with practical tips for making small changes to the way you live your life. We’ve written a number of posts about finding ways to change your habits and live healthier. If you’ve tried any of our suggestions, you likely know that behavior change is hard!

When we try to find time in our day for meal prep, exercise, balancing our checkbook, or organizing our important papers we don’t always end up being successful. If you have ever found yourself struggling with behavior change, temptation bundling might be for you!

Right now you’re asking: what is temptation bundling?

Picture this: You decide to get more exercise and start by going for a thirty minute walk every day after you get home from work. It goes well for a few days before you start skipping days. A few weeks later you realize you haven’t walked this week, but you have watched two hours of TV every day. When we are already set in our ways, adding a new habit can be really tough!

Temptation bundling is about combining a new habit with an established habit. Let’s go back to the example we just gave — this person would want to consider the things they already do every day (like watching TV) and how they can bundle that with a new habit, like getting exercise. According to this theory, you would want to walk WHILE watching television.

The idea of temptation bundling came from a study published in 2013 by Katherine Milkman. She created three groups of people. One group was given access to audio books and encouraged to listen while exercising. Another group was given access to audio books, but the access would only work if the participants were at the gym. The final group was simply given access to the gym and encouraged to exercise. Both groups with audiobooks exercised more, but the group that could only access the books at the gym exercised the most!

If you combine something you enjoy and regularly make time to do, with something you know that you should do, you are more likely to engage in that behavior. I tried this concept to see how it would work for me.

I took my treadmill, which had been placed out of the way, and put it right in front of the television. I decided that, for at least the first half hour of watching TV, I needed to walk on the treadmill. I found that it really worked! I did not have to change anything about my daily schedule, just move my treadmill and watch some TV in a different way. Since moving the treadmill, I meet my exercise goal on more days of the week.

Here are some other activities people may try to bundle:

  • Lifting weights, stretching, or doing other exercises while you watch your favorite TV show
  • Listening to a favorite podcast while you organize important papers
  • Household budgeting over a favorite dinner or snack (could be take out or something you make at home)
  • Singing along to your favorite music while you cook or meal prep

So, can you see any ways you might be able to bundle activities? We’d love for you to share your suggestions in the comments!

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