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By Julia Haimovich, Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

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Putting off adopting a healthier lifestyle, cleaner eating habits, and relaxation practices is a
common phenomenon in today’s fast-paced world. We often find ourselves saying, “I’ll start
tomorrow.” This procrastination can be attributed to a combination of psychological and
physiological factors. In this discussion, we will explore the reasons behind this delay and
how scientific findings can help us make positive changes.
The psychology behind procrastination:

The psychology behind procrastination is multifaceted and driven by several factors. First,
the instant gratification bias ingrained in human nature leads us to seek immediate rewards.
Unhealthy habits often provide instant satisfaction, making clean eating and relaxation
practices less appealing due to their delayed benefits. Second, lacking intrinsic motivation
can deter individuals from making lifestyle changes when they don’t perceive immediate
advantages. Additionally, fear of change, stemming from the unfamiliar and the unknown,
serves as a powerful psychological deterrent, making us gravitate towards familiar, albeit
non-beneficial, habits. The perception of adopting a healthier lifestyle as time-consuming in
our busy modern lives contributes to procrastination. Lastly, self-control is a limited resource,
making it challenging to resist unhealthy temptations, further fuelling procrastination
consistently. 1
The physiological reasons for procrastination:
Procrastination in adopting a healthier lifestyle is not only influenced by psychological
factors but also by physiological aspects. First, unhealthy habits tend to become deeply
ingrained due to habit formation, making them challenging to break. This is attributed to the
reinforcement of neural pathways over time. The unified triple brain network model proposes
that the connectome-based foundation of procrastination may stem from irregularities in the
self-control network, involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the emotion-
regulation network, involving the orbital frontal cortex (OFC), and the episodic prospection
network, which encompasses the para-hippocampus cortex (PHC). Additionally,
procrastination has been linked to the disruption of neural circuits between the frontoparietal
network (FPN) and the subcortical network (SCN), as well as between the FPN and the
salience network (SAN), based on the functional characteristics of the brain. 2
Additionally, brain chemistry plays a significant role, as engaging in pleasurable activities
triggers the release of dopamine, which reinforces these unhealthy habits. When individuals
opt for a healthier lifestyle, the absence of these neurochemical rewards can make it less
appealing. Stress, as a physiological response, contributes to procrastination by releasing
cortisol, a hormone that can lead to cravings for high-sugar and high-fat foods as a coping
mechanism. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of hunger-regulating
hormones, making it difficult to resist unhealthy food choices and further perpetuating
procrastination in adopting healthier habits. 3
Evidence-Based Findings for Positive Change:
Overcoming the procrastination associated with adopting a healthier lifestyle involves
recognising the power of habit. Understanding the role habit formation plays in our lives
empowers us to replace unhealthy habits with healthier alternatives. Research demonstrates
that with consistency, new habits can be formed over time, providing hope for positive
change. Furthermore, employing scientifically proven behavioural change techniques,
including goal setting, self-monitoring, and positive reinforcement, can significantly enhance
motivation and self-control, making lifestyle changes more attainable. 1
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, as supported by scientific findings, offer a powerful
tool for reducing stress, improving sleep, and enhancing overall well-being. These practices
can be seamlessly integrated into daily routines, bolstering psychological resilience and
promoting relaxation. Effective time management skills can dispel the misconception that

adopting a healthier lifestyle is too time-consuming. By identifying pockets of time for
healthier activities, individuals can take proactive steps toward change. 4
Scientific evidence underscores the long-term health benefits of a balanced diet, including a
reduced risk of chronic diseases, heightened energy levels, and improved cognitive function.
Understanding these benefits can serve as a motivating force for individuals to make dietary
changes. Lastly, seeking social support through engagement with a supportive community or
professional guidance can facilitate lifestyle changes. Research suggests that the presence of
a supportive network can elevate motivation and increase adherence to new habits,
reinforcing the importance of social connections in the journey toward healthier living. 1,
The delay in adopting a healthier lifestyle, cleaner eating, and relaxation practices can be
attributed to psychological and physiological factors. However, scientific findings offer
valuable insights into how individuals can overcome these barriers and make positive
changes. Recognising the psychological drivers of procrastination, utilising behaviour change
techniques, and understanding the benefits of a healthier lifestyle can lead to more successful
and sustained changes. With commitment, education, and support, individuals can break free
from the cycle of “waiting for tomorrow” and start their journey toward a healthier, more
fulfilling life today.

  2. Zhang S, Liu P, Feng T. To do it now or later: The cognitive mechanisms and neural
    substrates underlying procrastination. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive
    Science. 2019 Jul;10(4):e1492.
  3. Costa C. Procrastinate no more. How to overcome procrastination with machine
    learning. An exploration of design as a bridge between data science and human
  4. Gautam A, Polizzi CP, Mattson RE. Mindfulness, procrastination, and anxiety:
    Assessing their interrelationships. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research,
    and Practice. 2019 Nov 7.
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