Life stuck in habits

Life is constantly changing, so in order to thrive we need to be adaptable. However, many of us are stuck in habits that prevent us from realising our full potential. Things we can change about our lifestyle contribute to poor health, and yet we don’t do much to change them. Common problems people have are: anxiety, social isolation, depression, poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Being stuck in habits creates a feeling of lack of control. This may leave us feeling anxious, worried, or fearful when we think we should not be. Therefore we need a guide, a push in the right direction: something that helps us change for the better and to live the life we want to.


Our solutionicons-13

Onmi created the ToDo program in collaboration with Do Something Different Ltd. ToDo is a cloud-based behaviour change service with smartphone application. The program enables you to reach your full potential and achieve a healthier and happier lifestyle. By learning new behaviours – we call it becoming more behaviourally flexible – you have more choice over how you react to different situations. You’ll have more capacity to either cope or take on new challenges. This leaves you less stressed, more effective and open to new adventures.


The program is built on four pillars:

  • Variety– becoming more flexible in daily routines
  • Social Opportunity– getting out there to socialise and meet new people
  • Physical Activity– being physically active for better health.
  • Connection to Environment– engaging with your community and nature


How it worksHowItWorks

ToDo suggests micro behavioural alternatives that gradually change your habits. Each program is personalised and consists of different types of Do’s: Core Do’s and Data Driven Do’s. The Do’s are delivered by message and push notification in the smartphone application. Each Do focuses on action rather than information or motivation. The method is scalable and can be integrated with existing products and services.

CORE DO’s, which address your psychology and the factors that often prevent healthy changes.

DATA DRIVEN DO’s, which address your everyday context that traps you in habitual behaviour.


Do instead of think

The system sends out personalised Do’s – or micro behaviours – designed to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try new behaviours. Unlike most other change courses and self help books, the Do’s don’t try to cram your head full of information. We don’t want you to think. We want you to Do.


With the ToDo program you:

  • feel good about yourself
  • connect with people around you
  • are confident to experience new things
  • create variety and excitement in daily life
  • appreciate the environment you live in


Changing behaviourhealthy-lifestyle

Bringing about changes in modifiable behavioural risk factors is very difficult.

From a behavioural science perspective one reason why health messages are not making an impact is the habitual nature of human behaviour. A significant barrier to changing behavior is people’s pre-existing personal and lifestyle habits that render them resistant to change. Although a minority of people will heed health advice and change their behaviour because it is good for them, others will have the intention to change, and understand the need to change but will nonetheless persist with their pre-existing behaviours. There are at least three reasons for this:


  1. The neural substrates of human cognition and brain are designed to automatise all manner of choices and decisions rapidly, without conscious awareness.
  2. People’s habit associations are cued by their everyday environment[1]. Context cueing, involving sensory activation, expectation and reward in the brain, is extraordinarily potent.
  3. The disconnect between knowledge and behaviour, or the knowing-doing gap[2]. The human brain registers an action several seconds before the thought of acting enters consciousness[3].


Given these powerful brain mechanisms and the ability of context to trigger habitual responding, how can medical and other health interventions succeed to change modifiable behavioural risks? It will take more than a ‘nudge’ to reconfigure someones conditioned brain. Health warnings will barely impact the daily automatism of habits. Professor Ben (C) Fletchers’ research shows that a behavioural intervention needs to interrupt the sequence of conditioning; to change the small lifestyle behaviours that trigger the unhealthy habit chain and to try to instigate a new chain of events.




[1] Wood, W. & Neal, D.T. A New Look at Habits and the Habit-Goal Interface. Psychological Review, 2007; 114, 4: 843-863

[2] Pfeffer, J. & Sutton, R. The Knowing-Doing Gap. 2000. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

[3] Siong Soon, C., Brass, M., Heinze, H., Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience 2008: 11, 543 – 545 (2008); Matthias Schultze-Krafta,Daniel Birmana, Marco Rusconia,, Carsten Allefelda,, Kai Görgena,d Sven Dähnee,