Tiny habits can lead to big changes.

Taking tiny steps can be the pathway to making major lifestyle changes.

That was the message of a presentation on “Tiny Habits and Behavior Modification” April 20, a Zoom program for the Health Professionals Council of Hadassah Greater Detroit by Ilana Wolfson, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and certified Tiny Habits coach.

The Tiny Habits method was developed by BJ Fogg, Ph.D., director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything.

Wolfson defines a tiny habit as something one can do at a particular time. Adopting a tiny habit can lead to an aspiration — an outcome that can be achieved over time — which, in turn, can lead to a habit, an acquired behavior pattern that is regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary. If the tiny behavior feels good, the brain releases dopamine, so one wants to repeat the behavior. Eventually it becomes a habit.

On his website, Fogg says he has invested more than 20 years researching and teaching insights about human behavior. His early research informed the design of products used by millions, including Instagram, which was co-founded by one of his students.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Fogg illustrates his theory with a story about a man who wanted to lose his paunch. He did two pushups and a five-second similar “plank” exercise every day. Instead of minimizing this accomplishment, he celebrated it, which made him want to repeat it. A few years later he was able to do 50 pushups and a five-minute plank every day.

If your goal is to read more, start by reading just one paragraph a day. Even if you’re super-busy, that’s something you can do, and eventually the pleasure you derive from it will lead you to increase the amount you read.

A good way to repeat a tiny habit so that it becomes a part of your life is to anchor it to an existing routine. For example, if you want to drink more water, Wolfson said, put a water bottle in your purse.

Celebrate each time you do your tiny habit, maybe by singing a favorite song in your head. That way the new habit will be associated with something pleasurable, which will make you more likely to want to do it.

Fogg offers a free five-day program to help people change behavior using tiny habits. Find it at https://tinyhabits.com/join.

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