Many students arrive at university, intending to adopt healthy habits later in term, when the initial whirl of socialising and settling in has calmed down. But research shows that how you behave in the first six weeks, tends to stick for your time at university.
It is understandable that so many students do not focus on healthy habits in the first weeks of terms. It can be easy to promise yourself that you’ll sleep better, eat more healthily, exercise more and study for your course once you’ve made friends, got to know the university and had some fun. Unfortunately, that’s not really how people work.
Humans are creatures of habit. Once we’ve established and pattern and routine, it is harder to replace it with a new routine. So much of what we do happens unconsciously. Our body and our brain adapt to our surroundings and our routines, so we can slip into habitual behaviours without even thinking about it. So you can find yourself eating more, staying up late or drinking more than you planned, without really meaning to do any of those things. This will simply happen because it is what you have done before and you are unconsciously following these old routines.
This can be really helpful, if your behaviours are healthy. If you exercise at the same time each day or are used to getting to bed at a good time, then maintaining this will also happen without much effort.
Changing habits is hard because our will power is weak. But there are come cheats that can help us – setting healthy habits as soon as you get to university is one way of ensuring that you can maintain your wellbeing. This is because major changes in our lives create what is called a reset point. So much else is new that your brain doesn’t yet have a pattern for this experience. This means if you establish a healthy routine, your brain will associate it with this experience and so the routine becomes a habit.