New Habits for a New Year
The whole "new year, new you" mentality can really get us carried away and have us making bold plans for massive lifestyle changes come January 1st. But have you ever noticed that just because the calendar resets, new habits aren't magically easier to adopt and stick to than they were on December 31st?
I'm not sure why this is the time of year when everyone starts thinking about becoming healthier and setting new goals for themselves, but why not? If the new year gets people motivated to want their lives to be better and gives individuals a "second chance," then I say go for it! Better late than never.
It is estimated that, on average, about 45% of Americans consistently make a resolution for the new year. However, about 22% of resolutions fail after one week, 40% after a month, 50% after three months, and 60% after six months. The big question is what makes them fail. Why is it so hard to keep your resolutions?
Why Is It so Hard to Keep Your Resolutions?
Statistics show that exercising more is the top resolution made in the country, with losing weight following close behind. The problem with these resolutions, like most others, is that first of all, no one really wants to do either of these. They simply know that they need to. What's really going to motivate you to do anything you don't want to on your own?
Second, these resolutions aren't specific. When you make a resolution that's too broad, there's literally nowhere to begin. Do you sign up for a new gym membership? But then when will you go in your busy schedule? You could work out at home, but where and what will you do? There are too many ways out of this one. It's asking not to be done.
And there are no end goals. Are you just working out once a week? Three times a week? Are you losing 10lbs? 100lbs? With no end in sight, the resolution can seem insurmountable. It's easy to convince yourself it's too hard and back out of it altogether.
The American Psychological Association recommends starting small and focusing on one behavior at a time rather than creating a laundry list of habits you want to stop. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD.
How Do I Make My Goals More Reasonable?
If you want to truly be successful this year, you'll want to do your best to set yourself up for success. If your goals are reasonable it will be easy to reach them and you'll want to do more. You'll also want to make sure you're working towards goals you actually want it life. If you want it, you'll be more likely to go for it and feel rewarded when you get there.
Start with a few of these suggestions:
- Positive. Changing behaviors can be hard. It's best to start with something you want to do. Behaviors that feel like "shoulds" rarely become habits. Consider making the goal to do two pushups every morning after brushing your teeth rather than just to start exercising more.
- Specific. When a goal is too broad, there's no place to get started. Instead of saying you want to eat better, consider saying you'll have fresh fruit with breakfast every morning.
- Small. When you’re motivated to do more and ready to do more, let yourself do more. Maybe the small goal of walking around the block every Monday morning will turn into a 2 hour walk simply because you didn't feel like stopping just yet.
- Easily Accomplished. You can take on harder behaviors in the future, after you increase your skills. By starting small, specific, and positive, you will gain the confidence and motivation to do more. Success feels good. It will be hard to stop.
- Written Down. When you post your new goals somewhere that you'll see them frequently, like the front of the refrigerator for me, they'll be at the forefront of your mind more often. You'll put more thought into them on a daily basis and will more likely accomplish them.
Some Great New Habits to Start in the New Year
Let's look at some of the most common New Year's resolutions and how we can make them a little more reasonable. These are the most popular for a reason. They're great resolutions that most everyone needs in their lives, but maybe they just need to be taken down a notch, or you just need some more specific ideas. Hopefully, going through a few of these together will renew your passion for them, or even just give you some more motivation.
Everybody talks about exercising more each new year. This time why not try something that will give you energy instead of wearing you out, like yoga, tai-chi, or walking in the great outdoors. Consider doing something you enjoy. Do you like riding your bike, hiking, swimming, or any particular sport? You could even consider joining a group of like-minded individuals to do your activity with. Supportive, encouraging friends always make goals easier and more fun.
Eating right will easily give you more energy, mental clarity, emotional balance, and strength. It sounds daunting, but consider just working slowly on one thing at a time. Maybe you could switch out your soda for a glass of ice water once a day, or a mug of coffee for a healthy breakfast. Switching out snack foods for fresh fruits and veggies is another great one. You don't have to overhaul your diet or eliminate anything big, like bread or dairy, to feel the difference.
This is a great goal when done right. And what's great is that you don't have to go on some crazy diet. In fact, eating smaller meals with tons of snacks during the day is better for you than fasting or dieting. Drink water, which will help your body to flush out toxins, rather than sugary drinks. And try to find alternatives to any processed foods in your life, like an apple with some cheese slices instead of a bag of chips. Seriously, once the toxins start disappearing, the extra weight you want to get rid of will start disappearing too.
This is another big resolution for many people, and it's a great one. There are so many places we spend money that we don't need to, where we could be saving instead. The first place to look is your utilities. Could you go with more reasonably priced companies? Have you tried asking for discounts or savings programs? Next, consider your usage. Are you leaving lights on all day? Leaving the A/C pumping when you're not there? A little attention can make a big difference.
Then consider your food expenditures. Going out to eat is way more expensive than going to the grocery store. And buying pre-made meals is way more expensive than making your own stuff. Can you make your own coffee at home? Take fruit and veggies for snacks rather than using the vending machine at work or going to get fast food. There are so many great places you can save.
Pursuing a Career Ambition
Are you stuck in a job you don't like or in a home you'd rather not be in? This is a great time to set some goals for where you'd like to be in the future. Too many people settle for their current situation because they don't feel like they can get out, it seems like too much work, or even because the dream seems too big. Nothing is too big if you want to achieve it. Make some goals, dream big, and then make a reasonable plan for how to get there. Remember small, specific and positive. Keep it in front of you, think about it every day and little by little start working your way there.
Your Commitment Will Pay Off
Whatever your goals may be this year, you CAN accomplish them. You are smart enough, strong enough, and capable enough. Where most seem to fail is setting very broad goals, without any planning or direction, that seem to big or reasonable to accomplish. And they set goals that they don't really want to achieve like losing weight or exercising more, instead of snacking more or going for a walk once a week. You can make any wonderful goal sound awful with the right wording.
Be positive and specific, set small goals that are easily to accomplish, and write them down somewhere where you can't help but see them everyday. It's much easier to aim to do two pushups a day after brushing your teeth or walking around the block on Monday nights, and it will feel amazing when you realize you're doing 20 or 30 pushups a day, or walking 2 miles, just because you wanted to.
I highly encourage you to set some goals for the new year if you haven't already. Just the act of setting goals for yourself as you move into a new year will help you to start the year off on the right foot. Do something good for yourself, even if it's just to drink a glass of water every day, or take a deep breath every morning. You'll be thankful you did.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness