2022

"The science of forming healthy habits"


Discover interviewed Dr. Vickie Mays, professor of health policy and management, about how to sustain a new positive, healthy habit.

Water bottle, two hand weights, and a plate of salad

During her first year of college, Elaina Cosentino bought a fitness band and began walking 10,000 steps a day. Through a friendly competition with friends, she kept it up for four years. But during her first semester of graduate school, her routine changed and she fell out of the habit. Then her mother passed away between her first and second semesters, and it “truly took everything out of me to just get up and go to class,” says Cosentino, a physical therapist. “I did go for an occasional mind-clearing walk every now and then during that time, as walking was something familiar to me and I always loved the way I felt afterwards.”

But the combined pressures of “the weight of the pandemic, not having family around, going through grad school virtually and still going through the grieving process" drove the Rhode Island resident to search for something more consistent. "When I went back to walking every day, reforming the habit was bringing myself back down to Earth. It’s the one thing I can control every day.”

The two major components necessary to start and stick to a habit are ease and reward, says research psychologist Wendy Wood, author of the book, Good Habits, Bad Habits, The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick, who has studied habits for three decades. “If you’re trying to repeat a behavior, then willpower and motivation are not really the way to go. They’re what start you but they’re not going to help you persist,” she says. “Habits are not part of our conscious thought.”

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Faculty Referenced by this Article

Vickie Mays
Vickie Mays
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Daniel Eisenberg
Daniel Eisenberg
Health Policy and Management
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Jean Balgrosky
Health Policy and Management
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Galper, Michael
Michael Galper
Health Policy and Management
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Michelle Keller
Michelle S. Keller

Dr. Michelle S. Keller is a health services researcher whose research focuses on the use and prescribing of high-risk medications.

Health Policy and Management
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Diana Hilberman
Diana Hilberman
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Frederick Zimmerman
Frederick Zimmerman
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Kristen Choi
Kristen Choi
Health Policy and Management
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Patricia Ganz
Patricia Ganz
Health Policy and Management
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Steven Teutsch
Health Policy and Management
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Annette Maxwell
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Yvonne Flores
Yvonne Flores
Health Policy and Management
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Barbara Berman
Health Policy and Management
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Gerald Kominski
Gerald Kominski
Health Policy and Management
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Ron D. Hays
Ron D. Hays

@UCLA since 1997

Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Dylan Roby
Dylan Roby
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Jonathan Fielding
Jonathan Fielding
Health Policy and Management
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Leah Vriesman
Leah Vriesman
Health Policy and Management
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Neal Halfon
Health Policy and Management
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Julie A. Elginer

EMPH Academic Program Director with expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and reproductive health policy, teaching in the EMPH, MPH, MHA program

Health Policy and Management
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Kadiyala, Srikanth
Srikanth Kadiyala
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Naomi Zewde
Naomi Zewde
Health Policy and Management
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Warren Scott Comulada
Warren Scott Comulada
Health Policy and Management
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Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
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Jeanne Miranda
Jeanne Miranda
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. William McCarthy
William J. McCarthy
Health Policy and Management
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Yusuke Tsugawa
Yusuke Tsugawa
Health Policy and Management
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Thomas Priselac
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Anthony Schiff
Anthony Hunter Schiff
Health Policy and Management
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Pamela Davidson
Health Policy and Management
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Ty Robbins
Health Policy and Management
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Isomi Miake-Lye
Isomi Miake-Lye
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. John Lu
Z. John Lu
Health Policy and Management
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Mark Litwin
Health Policy and Management
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Arlene Fink
Health Policy and Management
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Ron Andersen

Dr. Ron Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Departments of Health Policy and Management.

Health Policy and Management
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Lori Pelliccioni
Health Policy and Management
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Avram Kaplan
Avram Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Beth Glenn
Beth Glenn
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Alice Kuo
Alice Kuo
Health Policy and Management
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David Hayes-Bautista
Health Policy and Management
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Robert Kaplan
Robert Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Corrina Moucheraud
Corrina Moucheraud
Health Policy and Management
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James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Jose J. Escarce
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Risha Gidwani
Risha Gidwani
Health Policy and Management
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Roshan Bastani Headshot
Roshan Bastani
Health Policy and Management
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Thomas D. Gordon
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Lillian Gelberg
Lillian Gelberg
Health Policy and Management
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Clifford Ko
Clifford Ko
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Xi Zhu
Xi Zhu
Health Policy and Management
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Emmeline Chuang
Health Policy and Management
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Rosenstock
Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Thomas Rice
Thomas Rice
Health Policy and Management
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Aronberg, Sandra
Sandra Aronberg
Health Policy and Management
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Moira Inkelas
Moira Inkelas
Health Policy and Management
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Olivia Jung
Olivia Jung
Health Policy and Management
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Burt Cowgill
Burt Cowgill
Health Policy and Management
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Mangione, C
Carol Mangione
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Stephanie Taylor
Stephanie L. Taylor

Nationally recognized health services researcher and sociomedical scientist with 25+ years' experience in effectiveness and implementation research.

Health Policy and Management
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Paul Chung
Paul Chung
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Felicia Hodge
Felicia Hodge
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Health Policy and Management
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Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Health Policy and Management
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Brennan Spiegel
Health Policy and Management
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Jack Needleman
Jack Needleman
Health Policy and Management
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Freund, Deborah
Deborah Anne Freund
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Paul Fu, Jr.
Paul Fu, Jr.
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Samuel Sessions
Samuel Sessions
Health Policy and Management
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Emily Abel
Emily Abel
Health Policy and Management
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Comanor, Bill
William Comanor
Health Policy and Management
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Laura Erskine
Laura Erskine
Health Policy and Management
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Nadereh Pourat
Nadereh Pourat
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Aria Fallah
Aria Fallah
Health Policy and Management
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Michael Ong
Michael Ong
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Kenneth Wells
Kenneth Wells
Health Policy and Management
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Robert Brook
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Joann Elmore
Joann G. Elmore
Health Policy and Management
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Alan Tomines
Health Policy and Management
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Susan Ettner
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Jennifer Wortham
Jennifer Wortham
Health Policy and Management
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