Although stress can motivate some people to overeat or go on a shopping spree, it can also encourage them to stick to their good habits, such as eating healthily and exercising, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by scientists from University of Southern California (USC) and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that when people are stressed and tired, they are just as likely to stick with positive habits as they are to self-sabotage.

The experts used five experiments to add a new twist to the established notion that we have finite resources for self-regulation, implying that when people are already stressed or tired, it’s more challenging to take control of their actions.

The study revealed that lack of control does not automatically result in indulgence or hedonism, explained leading researchers and USC Professors Wendy Wood and David Neal. It’s the fundamental habits that matter, for better or worse, they explained.

Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at USC, said:

“When we try to change our behavior, we strategize about our motivation and self-control. But what we should be thinking about instead is how to set up new habits. Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control.”

Wood is one of the leading experts on habit around the world. Habits are known as the automatic behaviors that allow us to properly function each day. For example, because of our habits, each morning we remember how to brush our teeth and how to get to work.

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