The Little Challenges

A to Z of behaviour change

If you want to change your behaviour, build new habits or simply feel a little happier and healthier, here are some ideas that might help.

Attention Restoration Theory


Time spent in the natural world paying 'effortless attention' leads to improved concentration, greater self-discipline and reduced stress.

Bright Line Rule


A rule that is so clear you can easily tell if you have broken it or not. Example: "I only eat cake after 6pm." Helps to reduce decision fatigue.

Circle of Control


A way to distinguish between what is and isn't within your control, so you can focus on the former and let go of the latter. Helpful for anxiety.

Distraction batching


Allocating clearly-defined time for rabbit-hole activities like checking social media, rather than doing them randomly throughout the day.

Environment Design


Design your environment to 'nudge' you to behave in the way you want, using cues to prompt 'good' habits and friction to discourage 'bad' ones.

Four Tendencies


Want to get people - including yourself - to do what you want? It can help to know your 'tendency': Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel.



A weekly practice of writing down 3 to 10 things you're grateful for is proven to bring a wide range of physical and psychological benefits.

Habit Formation


Once you know how the habit loop works - cue, routine, reward - you can build, break and stack habits to your heart's content. Game-changer.



In a world that's constantly trying to attract our attention, the ability to focus is an increasingly valuable, learnable, skill.



A daily writing practice can help to improve mental health, reduce stress, enhance self-awareness and support recovery from trauma.



It doesn't seem to matter who you're kind to - yourself, people you love, people you don't even know - any kind of kindness makes us feel good.

Labelling Emotions 


Simply naming difficult emotions (known as 'affect labelling') can be enough to reduce activity in the amygdala, making the feelings easier to cope with.

Mistake Diary 


Fear of making mistakes can lead us to play things safe, at the cost of our personal growth. Keeping a diary of mistakes made (and lessons learned) can help.



Our brains change and grow throughout our lives, shaped by our thoughts, behaviour, emotions and environment. Think it's too late to change? Think again.

OK Plateau


At first, learning new things demands our focused attention. Later, when we can do them just well enough to meet our needs, we start operating on autopilot - and stop improving.



Choosing to adopt an upright posture in stressful situations can  boost confidence, improve mood and reduce fear and self-consciousness.

Quick Bursts


Stuck? Procrastinating? Set a time for two minutes and find one tiny action you can take to get things moving again - a 'next right step'.

Redemptive Stories


A way of framing the events of our lives, no matter how painful, as meaningful and ultimately positive. In contrast to 'contamination stories'.

Systems vs Goals


A goal is a useful direction to head in, but doesn't necessarily give you the tools or a sustainable approach to get you there. That's where systems come in.

Temptation Bundling


Combine activities you need to do (but avoid) with ones you love (but don't have time for). Example: work out in front of your favourite TV show.

Unconscious Thought Theory


A theory that suggests we are better at solving complex problems when not consciously thinking about them. Good excuse to take lots of breaks.

Voluntary Discomfort


A Stoic practice in which you choose to experience discomfort (or avoid comfort). Helps to develop self-control, resilience and gratitude.



An unreliable way of getting yourself to do things since it wears out as the day goes on. Use environment design and habits for better results.



Ok, so it doesn't actually start with an 'x'. But it deserves a mention. Can be as effective at treating some types of depression as medication. Countless benefits for both body and mind. 

"Yes..damn!" Effect


You know when you say yes to something in the future and then, when the time comes around, wish you hadn't? Who knew that had a name?

Zeigarnik Effect


Our brains repeatedly remind us of unfinished tasks so they don't get forgotten, which can lead to mental overwhelm. Scheduling time to deal with them can help switch this off.