Did the pandemic give you new habits you want to break or keep? 

A man in a mask rides a stationary bike.
Liam Connery works out on an exercise bike while wearing a mask at Lifetime Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn., on Nov. 18, 2020. Many people's exercise habits were upended by the pandemic.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

The pandemic disrupted routines and forced many of us into new habits — some bad and some good. 

Maybe you’re snacking too much from the kitchen cupboard because you now work from home. Maybe you stopped working out when the gym closed but started taking daily walks. Or, maybe the stress of losing a job or taking care of family members means you're struggling to take care of yourself. 

Some experts estimate that 40 percent of daily life is made up of unconscious actions — the things we do without really thinking. When our environment changes, so do our habits. 

Behavior science offers a window into how habits form and how to shape our actions by changing the context. Hint: Willpower may not be as important as people think.  

What makes it easier to do the things we dread? What’s the best way to break a bad habit? And how can we cultivate positive new habits to cope with the chaos of this year?  

MPR News host Kerri Miller talked with two experts about how the pandemic changed routines and how we can take advantage of the disruption to shape new habits for the better. 


  • Katy Milkman is a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, host of the Choiceology podcast about behavioral economics, and co-director of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative. Her book “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” is coming out in May.

  • Wendy Wood is a provost professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California and author of the book “Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick.”

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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