It’s not about interventions

It goes without saying that our wellbeing, moment-to-moment and long-term, depends heavily on our habits. Repetitive, hourly, daily and weekly behavioural patterns not only have consequences for our physical and mental health but they can actually, over time, affect us at a genetic level. The field of epigenetics studies changes in gene expression caused by behavioural and environmental factors.

Our habits, undoubtedly, have a profound effect on our wellbeing.

Sometimes we seek to break or change or adapt habits by intervening. An intervention, by definition, is the process of deliberately interfering with a process in an attempt to alter an outcome. When we find out that a student is bullying other students, we intervene. If we feel we are constantly distracted at work, we can try using a mindfulness meditation as an intervention. Interventions can also have a profound effect on our wellbeing…in the short term.

The thing is, interventions are, conceptually, the opposite of a habit. Interventions interrupt habits. Interventions, by nature, are short-term disruptions. Interventions do not affect us at a genetic level. Mindfulness mediation, for example, has no long-term effect on wellbeing…unless it becomes a habit. (At which point it is no longer an intervention!)

Wellbeing researchers are continuing to identify very interesting and potentially valuable interventions. But these interventions only really matter when they stop being interventions and, instead, transition to long-term behavioural patterns.

Interventions affect our habits. Habits affect our lives.