Did you know that only 9.2% of people felt that they were successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution?! That means that 90.8% of people felt that they had not succeeded. Brutal. Over the past year I have been doing a lot of reading about habits and one of the things that comes up over and over again is that habits are really hard to break because our brains become hard-wired to fall back on those habits, especially when we are tired or stressed or distracted. What this means is that when you are trying to change a habit there are two steps you can take to improve your chances of success: one is to replace the old habit with a new and easy-to-accomplish one and the other is to start with a small change that will then create a ripple effect.
Now that all sounds fine and good, but what does it actually look like? As you know, I am all about simplicity and practicality. So I wanted to share some possible ways that you might be able to tackle those health-related resolutions and achieve your goals.
Don’t deprive, honor or substitute. If you are trying to get some sort of eating or craving habit under control, cutting yourself off completely to the point where you feel deprived is likely to set you up for falling off the wagon, which will lead to guilt, which will lead to throwing in the towel. So instead, either choose to honor the craving by having a little bit and savoring it or opt to substitute it with something else that will satisfy the need. Some examples of ways my clients have put this into practice:
- One client stopped fighting with herself over having dessert every night and decided to allow herself a cookie or small scoop of ice cream after dinner. The result? The evening-long angst about sweets disappeared and she no longer found herself standing in front of the fridge in the middle of the night!
- Another client felt strongly that she needed to stop having sugar in the evenings in order to improve her sleep, so she substituted a mug of tea with honey. She says that the ritual of it helps to make it feel special, decadent, and like a nourishing act of self-care.
Start small and build on your success. If you are hoping to do more of something (e.g., exercising, creating a mindfulness practice, or cooking more at home so that you eat healthier and save money by doing less take out—ahem, ahem, a noble goal if I may say so myself ), then start small and build up your confidence and enthusiasm. Here are some ways you could make this work:
- Try quick fixes that can get you started. If exercising more is your goals, try some 15-minute workouts on YouTube or start by scheduling in two mini-walks a day during work hours. If meditating on a daily basis would be nice, how about starting with 2 minutes a day instead of 10? If cooking is the goal, start with pre-chopped vegetables, pre-made pizza doughs, and canned beans. If you feel so inspired later, you can shift to 100% from scratch, but for now why make life more difficult than it needs to be?
- Commit to 2 days a week and then add more later. This works for exercise, a new hobby, or cooking—make big meals twice a week (Sunday and Tuesday or Wednesday) and then do simple meals (sandwiches, quesadillas, etc.) and leftovers for the other days.
When you fall off the horse, get back on. As I said earlier, habits are hard to break. So when the inevitable slip up happens, don’t waste time or energy beating yourself up. Instead, just brush yourself off and do your best to get back on track. Afterall, what good is being healthy if you are miserable, grumpy, or hungry?
I’d love to hear from you! Have you had success with a resolution? How did you make it work? What’s your goal for this year and your plan to make it happen?