I recently read a book I’ve been meaning to for a long time: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. If you haven’t already read this book, it’s an absorbing exploration of the science behind the habits that shape our individual lives, our companies, and our societies. The best part about it is, it’s written as a series of anecdotes about individuals, sports teams, companies, and groups that have changed their habits to improve their performance. Each section and chapter is engaging and readable, and builds on what came before it to craft a detailed picture of how habits work and how they can be changed. It explores neuroscience, psychology, belief, economics, and more, and it left me feeling like I had a good grasp on how habits work and how I could change mine.
Because we’re approaching a new year, you may be thinking about how you want to change your life and what you’d like to do better. My personal recommendation is that the first thing you do on that journey is read a book about habits and how they can change. If you’d like something more recent than The Power of Habit (published 2012), check out any of the great titles listed below.
Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg recommends you start small to make changes.
Habit Swap by Hugh G. Byrne focuses on mindfulness and self-control.
Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood draws on scientific research.
Healthy Habits Suck by Danya Lee-Bagley is a realistic guide to motivation.
Atomic Habits by James Clear highlights small behaviors that drive change.
Stick With It by Sean Young highlights how lasting change is made.
Have you heard anyone say “sitting is the new smoking”? More and more we’re being told to get up and move, to try standing desks, anything to avoid sitting for long periods of our day. You may like this advice, or you may find it annoying or confusing, but the truth is that our bodies are built to move, in an intricate and fascinating system that we take for granted every day. In Praise of Walking, by Irish author Shane O’Mara, is an accessible, wide-ranging, and engaging overview of this issue.
O’Mara starts with an extremely motivating chapter on why walking is good for us to incorporate into our everyday lives, and then dives into the science of walking: how it developed in our species, the mechanics of movement, and what’s going on in your brain while you walk. He even presents the evidence that walking can aid in creativity, problem-solving, and socializing.
It would be easy for a book like this to be a personal memoir of walking and its healing powers, but this book was very evidence-based. Every statement made was supported by historical records and/or scientific studies. O’Mara works hard throughout the book to be transparent about his sources and where his recommendations are coming from, which makes the book as a whole more convincing for me. This did lead to some fairly technical scientific explanations, but he also included regular summaries in everyday language, which was a big help.
I personally love to walk and feel refreshed and renewed by being in nature, so it’s possible I’m biased in this case, but I found O’Mara’s explanations interesting, his evidence compelling, and his recommendations very motivating. Especially for curious readers and lifelong learners, the basic science presented in this book is a great way to learn something new about a practical topic.