If you pledged to get healthier this year with yet another New Year’s resolution (or maybe even two or three resolutions), know that typically 80% of them fail by February. If you want to increase your odds of success this year though, here are some tricks to help make your new habits stick!
1. Commit to Thirty Days
Consider the first 30 days as the foundation for creating a new habit. It takes time to make a new behavior stick, but you’ll increase the chances of achieving your new pledge if you commit to making it through these 30 days.
To get inspired, watch this lighthearted TED talk, “Try Something New for 30 Days” as a new way to think about setting and achieving goals.
2. Do It Daily
Whatever your goal — whether it’s to go to the gym or eat three fruits a day — then do it DAILY for the first 30 days. It’s easier to nail down the habit if you do it everyday versus once every few days. The goal is consistency.
NOTE: If you pledged to go to the gym, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work out vigorously every day. Just get yourself to the gym for 30 consecutive days — even if it means walking in and taking just a few spins on the bike. The key is to get in the habit of getting up and going.
3. Mingle with Role Models
Make a point of seeking out people whose habits you want to imitate because when it comes to becoming fatter, obesity spreads through social relationships. A 32-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that you’re more likely to become obese if you spend time with close friends that are obese. That is, according to researchers, obesity can literally spread from person to person, much like a virus.
Therefore, if your close friend is obese, eats junk food, and doesn’t exercise, then it will be more difficult (but not impossible) to stick with your pledge to create new healthy habits. Although you cannot change your friend’s habits, YOU can still change yours. Seek out and spend time with your role models.
4. Negate Negatives with “But”
“But” is a very powerful word. When you use it, it negates everything you said preceding the word “but” in that sentence. (Did anyone ever say to you, “Say, I love your new hair color, but….” Stop the negative self-talk. It can lead to overeating to relieve those negative emotions.
When you catch yourself saying, “I can never stick with my New Year’s resolutions,” follow it with, “but I have the skills to help me this time.” Use “but” to stop negativity in its tracks.
5. Own It
Resolutions fail because they’re created based on what someone else (such as your spouse, doctor, or parent) is telling you to change. Be sure your New Year’s resolution is something YOU want to achieve. That is, be sure your resolution is NOT based on what you “should” do.
A part of owning your goal is watching your language. The words “should”, “need to”, and “have to” are negative words, and you surrender control when you say them. Negative thinking and negative self-talk lead to negative emotions, such as feelings of defeat and depression, and thus, emotional eating.
The words “should”, “need to”, and “have to” imply something is wrong with you. That is, something is ‘broken’ and needs to be fixed. For example, notice the difference in how you feel when you say, “I have to exercise” or “I need to lose weight” versus, “I want to exercise because I love walking vacations” or “I choose to lose weight, so I won’t have knee pain” which puts the control, motivation, and power to change back on you.
6. Relish the Reward
Rewards are the end goal of every habit, so notice the reward. If your goal is to exercise for 30 days, then embrace how good you feel after you exercise — e.g., more energetic, less stressed, and proud of your accomplishment.
When it comes to forming a new habit, you chase the rewards because they’re not only satisfying, they teach you which actions are worth repeating (habit).
7. Change the Behavior (Not the Reward)
If you resolve to stop watching TV after work because that’s when you transform into a couch potato and eat mindlessly, be sure when you replace that behavior with something else, you keep the reward.
That is, if you watch television (the behavior) to decompress and relax (the reward), then find another behavior that still helps you relax, such as meditation, massage, or exercise.
8. Keep It Simple and Realistic
Don’t make your new habit too complicated. Keep it simple and realistic. One reason resolutions fail is because you’re initially bubbling over with motivation and enthusiasm, and your goals become overly ambitious. Consequently, they’re not achievable or they’re too difficult to sustain.
For example, you resolve to “jog every morning for an hour”, but you haven’t exercised in a year. Instead, aim for 20 to 30 minutes (or even 10!) and gradually increase the duration as the weeks go by. This is when you need to cool your desire for instant gratification.
9. Be Specific and Consistent
Resolutions fail because they’re too vague. For example, if you want to start exercising, schedule a specific time of day to do it, the place, type of exercise, and the duration or distance. You’ll be more likely to be consistent is you establish these cues.
10. Discard Temptations
No need to torture yourself. Rearrange your environment to increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with your new habit. For example, if you vowed to not eat junk food for 30 days, then throw out any tempting remnants still lurking in your pantry, around the house, your desk, car, or other spots.
Remember… when you’re tired, willpower wanes which makes it easier to abandon your resolution.
Fit Tip: Accept being IMPERFECT. Old habits are never extinguished, so it’s easy to slip back into your old familiar ways. It’s reasonable to assume that it’ll take multiple attempts to create a new habit. As long as you keep trying, you are successful.