In just a few days we’ll have a resolution double-whammy. Not just a new year, but a new decade. Seems like a perfect time to be jotting down those resolutions (or publishing them online), right? Making resolutions is one thing…but what about keeping them? What can social psychology tell us that will help increase the odds that this time next year we’ll be proud of ourselves for the changes we’ve made?
In a recent study Lally et al. found that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to become automatic. While 254 days of gym trips and healthier eating may seem daunting, there’s small comfort in their finding that missing one day did not seem to influence the habit formation process. Weidemann et al. found that action-planning and coping-planning also affect behavior change, particularly in behaviors related to health. Additionally, developing an action plan early on and preparing mentally for the obstacles you may confront as you try to keep your goal (coping-planning, further explained here) can also help you keep your goal.
- stick with your resolution for the long haul
- don’t beat yourself up too much if you miss a day
- develop a plan to help you reach your goal or keep your resolution
- mentally imagine yourself overcoming any obstacles
- and, while you’re at it, tell your friends, since that seems to help too!
(2009) Lally et al. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
(2009) Wiedemann et al. How planning facilitates behaviour change: Additive and interactive effects of a randomized controlled trial
(2005) Sniehotta et al. Action planning and coping planning for long-term lifestyle change: theory and assessment
(2009) Burkeman. This column will change your life, The Guardian
Reese ended her eight-year marriage, but managed to maintain a friendship with her ex.
For many people, including many relationship scientists, the last stage of relationship dissolution is termination of contact. It seems much easier to hate your ex rather than being friend with her/him. However, more and more studies revealed that the phenomenon of post-dating friendships is common. So why are some former romantic relationships redefined into friendships? And how is it possible?
Foley and Fraser (1998) suggest that romantic relationships that no longer fulfill the romantic needs of partners may undergo a transformation to friendship. To the extent that the resources exchanged continue to be of value to the former partners, the relationship is likely to be maintained in the form of a friendship. Hill, Rubin, and Peplau (1976) found that premarital partners were more likely to stay friends when the breakup was male initiated or mutual. Metts, Cupach, and Bejlovec (1989) found that being friends prior to initiation of a romantic relationship was a significant predictor of maintaining a friendship post breakup. In addition, people whose partners used a positive tone in expressing their desire to end the relationship were more likely to remain friends than those who used such withdrawal strategies as avoidance. Also, those who perceived their former partner as more desirable were more likely to remain friends post breakup (Banks et al., 1987).
Recently, Busboom and colleagues (2002) used social exchange theory framework to examine whether resources and barriers influence the quality of friendship with a former romantic partner. The findings of their study suggested that the more resources people receive from their former partners, the more likely they will be to experience a high quality friendship after breakup. In addition, one’s level of satisfaction with the resources received may also contribute to friendship quality. Lastly, there are several obstacles that can get in the way of a postdating friendship, such as lack of support from family and friends for a post-dating friendship, the participant’s involvement in a new romantic relationship, and the use of neglect as a strategy to end the relationship were all significant predictors of lower friendship quality.
Friends after divorce: one couple trades drama for decency
Busboom, A.L., Collins, D.M., Givertz, M.D., & Levin, L.A. (2002).Can we still be friends? Resources and barriers to friendship quality after romantic relationship dissolution. Personal Relationship, 9, 215-223.
Posted in Emotion and Motivation, Gender, Group/Intergroup Processes, Health, Personality
Tagged breakup, divorce, ending, ex, former partner, friend, friendship, initiate breakup, post-dating friendship, romantic relationship
The recent events at Fort Hood, Texas — multiple killings on an army base at the hands of a soldier — have people asking many questions. How could this happen in a protected space, such as an army base? How could it happen at the hands of a soldier? And how could it happen at the hands of a soldier whose job it was to help others with their own psychological distress?
The experiences of war are traumatic for the soldiers and those living in war torn areas. The cumulative effects of combat stress can lead to such disorders as PTSD. But is there a similar cumulative effect of listening, repeatedly, to soldier’s most traumatic experiences? Researchers have found that listening to traumatic stories from clients can cause psychological distress for the clinician. This phenomenon has been termed “vicarious traumatization” and, over time, it can lead to “compassion fatigue” in the therapist.
One study has shown that personal characteristics of the therapist, such as the extent to which they “practice what they preach” in terms of working through their own stress, is directly related to burnout and compassion fatigue. But as a recent NY Times article points out, in addition to the stress of listening to soldiers’ harrowing tales of war, the military psychologists are also dealing with the prospect of their own deployment. Although there is a built in “checks and balances” system to monitor those providing care, the authors point out that for an officer at his rank, Maj. Hasan would have been expected to seek help on his own if he felt he needed it. However, this philosophy does not align with previous findings which show that therapists often feel expected to shoulder the burden of traumatic stories and that there is a sense of pride in maintaining client confidentiality and personal composure.
These findings, coupled with another study that shows the social function of “collective remembering” — in which the “social sharing” of emotions related to a traumatic event have long-term benefits in terms of post-traumatic growth and social integration — make salient the differences between sharing trauma at a collective vs. individual level. Collective sharing and processing of emotions can help a society and its citizens work through traumatic events. Therapists clearly have a role in sharing the experiences and facilitating positive coping processes, but their own experiences and stresses cannot be neglected in the process.
Does the war end when the shooting stops? The psychological toll of war. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, July 2006
Factors affecting burnout and compassion fatigue in psychotherapists treating torture survivors: Is the therapist’s attitude to working through trauma relevant? Journal of Traumatic Stress, March 2007
Compassion fatigue: When listening Hurts. APA Monitor, September 1995
Painful stories take a toll on military therapists. NY Times, 11/7/09
Social sharing of emotion, post-traumatic growth, and emotional climate: Follow-up of Spanish citizen’s response to the collective trauma of the March 11th terrorist attacks in Madrid
Posted in Emotion and Motivation, Health
Tagged compassion fatigue, Ft. Hood, listening, Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan, Military, PTSD, soldiers, therapist burnout, trauma, vicarious traumatization, war