I’ve always found resolutions tough to keep. My picture-a- day plan from last year made it two weeks. My goal of folding and putting my clean clothes away as soon as they are dry failed within a month. And, yet, as a health educator, I believe that new habits can be formed – in essence, that people can change. Sometimes, that change comes with the social motivation of starting a resolution along with the hundreds of other new folks lining up for the machines at the SRC. Other times, all those extra people make sticking to a resolution even more challenging.
Here are some tips I use to change my habits:
Make it matter. A picture a day didn’t really matter to me, nor did I really want to commit to laundry being prioritized over a few more minutes outside or spent with my family. In order for my goals to stick, I need to pick one that I’m truly motivated to change.
Make the behavior small. I start by thinking about how this year I’d like to connect more with nature, eat healthier foods, get more fit, or spend more time with the people I love. Then I break those overarching ideas down into something smaller. The actual work to achieve my goal should be something that I do every day…or at least once per week. Some examples include spending time in the woods every week, exchanging one sweetened beverage (soda, juice, lattes) each day with water, walking or biking everywhere, or scheduling a weekly lunch date with a group of friends.
Allow time for each habit. It takes four weeks for new behaviors to become a tentative “habit.” And much longer to make that habit stick for a lifetime. Instead of trying three resolutions starting Jan 1, I try to create one new habit per month at maximum. So I might use January to stick to a sleep schedule, February to stick to that sleep schedule and incorporate strength exercises into each day (pause 2 times per day for pushups, crunches, lunges), and March to stick to a sleep schedule, incorporate strength exercises, and exchange the time I would be using a time-wasting website for reinvigorating a favorite hobby.
Reframe “I don’t have time.” Every single one of us has the same amount of time – twenty-four hours each day. If I think to myself, “I don’t have time,” what I really mean is “I am not prioritizing my time for this.” So I try make my goal my top priority. If that goal is to be more active or cook more for myself at home or say yes to people, then I add that item to my daily planner first. Yes, there are other things in my life that I need to do – classes, work, etc. – but very few people are in class or at work every minute of their waking day. And if you are one of those rare folks, find a goal that you can do in those places (i.e. pause to take deep breaths every two hours, take the stairs whenever possible, pack a healthy lunch each day, etc.).
Be gentle. Even if I don’t end up achieving my goal for a full year or the rest of my life, if I enjoyed the attempt, it was worth it. My 14 days of pictures from last January still makes me smile, and the rare instances that I put my clothes away is one less time they are dumped on top of my dresser.
Do you have tips for sticking to your resolutions? Share them below – we love new ideas!