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Five habit-forming tricks that can benefit you and your client

Published: 14/02/2023

Making healthy decisions is not always easy. It’s even harder to form a habit and make it stick. Here, Vitality’s Greg Levine offers his five tips.

Given the pressures we’re facing as a nation – not just financially but on our health and wellbeing too – it’s more important than ever that we look after ourselves. This can apply to all of us, including your clients.

Good advisers know that, while we cannot predict the future, it helps to be as prepared as possible. Financial protection and health insurance of course plays a crucial part of that, but resilience always starts with being healthy.

We see this in our own data. The more our members engage in healthy lifestyle choices, the less they are likely to claim.

“Everyone knows that forming healthy habits is not easy. It is much better to be nudged in the right direction.”

– Greg Levine, Managing Director, Sales and Distribution, Vitality

Studies by experts suggest that around 40% of human behaviour1 – what we think, say and do – can be categorised as habitual. This means we’re basically on autopilot a large portion of the time.

And according to James Clear, author of bestseller ‘Atomic Habits’, it takes approximately 66 days to form one.

But like how Stanley – the Vitality dachshund – learns good behaviour through repetition and positive reinforcement with dog treats, human habits are also more easily formed if rewards and incentives are involved.

Given that well into February the majority of new year’s resolutions have been abandoned – 80%, according to research2 – here are five tips to forming habits that are much more likely to stick.

1. Start small

Most of us are overconfident when it comes to our health. Behavioural scientists call this ‘optimism bias’ (but your client might think: “it won’t happen to me”). That’s why it’s far more effective to set smaller, more manageable goals that are achievable, rather than trying to solve something big – like giving up smoking or losing a stone – all in one go. 

Also known as ‘habit-stacking,’ micro-habits – such as eating an extra healthy meal a week or taking the stairs instead of the lift once a day – can instead ladder up to form a macro-habit and lead to long-term behavioural change. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

2. Be realistic

In order to achieve our goals, we also need to overcome what’s often referred to as ‘hyperbolic discounting’. This is based on the theory that we are more likely to choose more immediate gratification over something that might come later and requires more effort.

Knowing this means that little rewards can be used effectively as a way of spurring on positive lifestyle choices, like walking to the shop rather than jumping in a car.

A Vitality, we use Active Rewards to add extra value and help make healthy living more rewarding in the short-term. It works too. Vitality members who redeemed at least one handcrafted coffee or cinema ticket as a reward in their first year reduced their Vitality Age gap by 19% more than those who did not3.

3. Establish a routine

Having consistency is a powerful way to support behaviour change. Personally, I wake up at 5.30am (why waste a good day?) and ensure I feed myself with both mental and physical protein. This involves reading something that helps develop my mind and avoiding emails until 8am as well as exercising most days so that I hit 40 Vitality Points each week.

4. Set checkpoints

Keeping track of your progress and celebrating the small wins. This helps keep us motivated. Smart technology and wearables are perfect tools for this.

That’s why we track the physical activity and record them as Vitality Points on Member Zone with a weekly target. Not only is this proven to help motivate people to get physically active or eat healthy food, but it also means that your clients are fully engaged with their insurance plan. They see the value in it from day one, which means they are far less likely to lapse or cancel and much more likely to think positively about their adviser. This then leads to referrals and additional sales opportunities.

5. Find a friend

Research suggests that having someone to do physical activity with can up the intensity by up to 200%4. Even that aside, having someone else involved can help hold us to account, not to mention the mental health benefits of social activity.

Personally, I love to do something active with the family, such as a long walk or a game of tennis. Not only is this good for my health: it is quality time you never get back.

The Vitality Programme is the world’s largest health promotion programme linked to insurance.

Where to next?

  • Why now is the time for next generation insurance

    At a time when the UK is facing numerous social challenges, from the ongoing cost-of-living crisis to immense pressure on the NHS, there has never been a more relevant time to go above and beyond the scope of traditional insurance, writes Justin Taurog, Managing Director, VitalityLife.

  • Protection must offer more than just peace of mind

    During the cost-of-living crisis, delivering clients immediate value – as well as financial protection for when they might need it most – is more important than ever, writes Andy Philo, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Vitality.

  • Insights Hub

    Our Insights Hub brings you our range of adviser content - from video series to articles blogs.

1Duke University, 2006
2Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail, U.S. News & World Report, 2019
3Vitality analysis, 2014-2019, based on members who completed their Vitality Age in the first month of their plan, compared to the 13th month
4Burning more calories is easier when working out with someone you perceive as better, Kansas State University, Nov 2021