With the arrival of February, how are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Abandoned them yet or still going strong?
If you have already given up on your resolutions, you’re in good company. Making – and maintaining – significant behavioral or lifestyle changes is challenging for everyone. The reality is that you have to shift your thinking from resolutions to habits.
Habits imply lasting behaviors or patterns, a regular or settled tendency or practice. If you can transform your resolutions to habits, you are more likely to succeed. After all, we are creatures of habit.
Creating new habits still takes thought and effort, however. Follow these tips to adopt new habits to get on the right track. Good luck!
Tips to Adopt New Habits
- Identify and be specific. While this seems obvious, many people just choose something general, like “working out more.” While this is a good goal, you’re more likely to be successful if you say “exercise 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes.” That way, you know exactly what you’re working toward. Goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
- Incorporate accountability. Tell your family or friends about how you’re trying to adopt new habits, and encourage them to ask you about your progress over time. Also, write down your goals, and put them in the car, on the bathroom mirror, at your desk or as the background on your phone. Frequent reminders are helpful mind and behavior nudges.
- Plan ahead. If you want to cut calories, you may want to bring your lunch to work instead of eating out each day. If you want to walk more, perhaps you should invest in an activity tracker, volunteer at a dog shelter or commit to a time to walk each week with a friend or neighbor.
And if you’re going to exercise early in the morning, you’ll need to go to bed earlier and pack your gym bag the night before. The point is that new habits don’t just happen automatically – you have to intentionally plan for and pursue them.
- Anticipate challenges. Change — even good, healthy change – is hard. If you occasionally fail to accomplish your new habit, don’t give up altogether. Each day is a new opportunity.
Ditch all-or-nothing thinking, and be aware of what may derail you. For instance, if you are trying to limit alcohol consumption, skip happy hour with your coworkers, or meet them for lunch instead. If you’re trying to save more money, make your own coffee and decrease your trips to Starbucks. And when you’ve planned to exercise daily, but your schedule gets jammed, forgive yourself and get in a workout tomorrow. Progress often comes in smaller, incremental doses.
- Enlist support. In addition to accountability, having a partner to help adopt new habits can help spur change. A workout buddy is a great example of someone who can keep you going when you want to quit.
Recruit a spouse or family member to help you grocery shop or make healthy new recipes. Participate in a weight loss program together with a friend.
- Celebrate success. Track your efforts so you can honestly assess progress. Treat yourself to a massage, concert or new workout outfit when you are demonstrating ongoing commitment and/or seeing results from your new habit. Obviously, don’t celebrate in a way that derails your goal – so that means don’t inhale a huge ice cream sundae if you’re trying to eat healthy.
But recognize and reward your hard work to adopt new habits. Then keep plowing ahead with the mindset that these are permanent lifestyle changes!