As we enter the new year, we all have the drive, determination and intention to set new year’s resolutions and activate change in our lives, creating new healthy habits which we hope to stick to.
That could be improving our fitness, focusing on the quality of our diet, or even taking time out to focus on our own self-care. However, research has shown that we may not even sustain these new habits past the end of the January, and for some reason, we just can't stick to them.
Research also tells us that it takes at least 66 days to form a new habit until it becomes automatic, so the first 66 days will be really challenging whilst our brains create the new neural pathways. During this time, it is important that we give ourselves the best chance to succeed.
We are going to look at some practical strategies, which will give us the best chance to harness our new habits and make them stick:
Always plan and make sure you write down what you want to achieve. Think if there is anything practical that you need to support yourself with the changes you are making. But the most important thing to address is WHEN and WHERE am I going to be doing this new habit. This will provide direction and clarity on how the habit is going to be performed.
- Social support
As we enter the new year, millions of people around the world are also looking to create new habits. So can you reach out to family, friends and colleagues and work together to accomplish your new habits. Are there local clubs or communities which can also help support your change? Utilise the power of social support.
- Habit stacking
We all have habits that we carry out everyday from brushing our teeth to making a coffee in the morning. Habit stacking is a practical strategy where we stack the new habit after/before a current habit. Our current habits are already in place and wired in our brain, so utilise these to our strengths and stack our habits. (Could put an example after brushing your teeth you will do 5 mins of mindfulness)
- Make it easy
How can you change your environment to support your new healthy habit? Make your environment exciting and place cues in obvious places which will encourage you to engage in the behaviour.
- Goal setting
It’s important that we create clarity for ourselves, and that we provide ourselves with a clear path we want to take. Make your goals specific and measurable and use the SMART framework to help you set your goals. Always address what your barriers are going to be and what is the solution when they arise? This means you are already one step ahead.
We always set ourselves really high standards and think we are going to make a fresh start and achieve all our new habits. It is inevitable when implementing new habits there will be times where we slip back into old habits, but it is so important that we are kind to ourselves and be compassionate towards oneself. If we do slip back into an old habit the fresh start is not ruined, mistakes or failures don’t ruin our goals.