The year is still new and people are making decisions about what they want to do differently in 2016. Although resolutions are notorious for being fickle and short-lived, there is nothing wrong with using an established transition period (like the start of a new calendar year) to signal self-improvement. Self-improvement is always a good thing to start today, whether today is the 1st of January or the 30th of November. For those who have chosen this time to make a commitment to better health, I want to give a few tips that can improve the chances of success and longevity of such a commitment.
- Start a tiny habit every 90 days
One of the reasons New Year’s resolutions get such a bad rap is because people start off all gung ho trying to make big drastic changes that become overwhelming and get left on the wayside by February. Rather than putting so much pressure on yourself so early in the year, break your changes down into tiny habits that you build one-by-one over time. Studies suggest that it can take anywhere from 30 days to 90 days to form a habit. I suggest you use this to your advantage. Here’s how:
a.) Make a list of small healthy actions you can do every day, for example;
Healthy Habit List:
- Drink a cup of water first thing in the morning
- Include a fruit with my breakfast
- Have breakfast
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Replace 1 soda per day with water
- Eat one vegetable-rich meal per day
- Go to bed at a specific time each night
b.) Choose ONE of the items on your list, whichever one is the smallest, easiest one.
c.) Pair that ONE thing with a routine you already have, e.g. meal times, after brushing your teeth, before you shower, arriving at work. Alternatively, replace a bad habit with a good one, e.g. buy a bottled water whenever you feel like buying a soda.
d.) Do that ONE thing every day for 90 days, e.g. I will drink a glass of water after I brush my teeth every morning from January to March.
By the time you get to the 90-day point you have made the action a habit. Once you conclude that the habit is set, you can add another one of your tiny health habits to your routine and work on it for another 90 days while continuing the first healthy habit. If you can handle adding a new one every 60 days or every month you can try that. But even if you choose to use the 90-day habit forming mark, you will still have accomplished adding 4 new healthy habits to your routine by the end of the year. Try it!
- Block out non-negotiable time in your weekly schedule
If you want to start a new routine that takes a specific amount of time such as walking for 30 minutes a day, spending 1 hour in the gym twice a week, or spending 2 hours cooking your week’s meals every Sunday, you need to plan ahead for success. Block out the time allotted for the activity on your calendar and make it non-negotiable. Prioritize this time – do not let anything else overlap or interfere with that schedule (barring an emergency of course). Use a scheduling app and an alarm/timer to help you stay organized and on time for your commitment to the healthy activity.
- S.M.A.R.T. goals still in effect
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is often used in business and health to help people set goals they are better able to achieve. Here’s how to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal:
S = Specific: Be very specific about what you want to achieve and what you will do to achieve it
M = Measurable: Make your goal something that can be measured so you can keep track of progress
A = Achievable: Your goal has to be something reasonable that you can actually accomplish
R = Relevant: Your goal needs to be worthwhile and meet your needs
T = Time-bound: You need to set a time limit (month/day/year) by which you will achieve this goal or a deadline for each step in your goal achievement.
- Turn workout into play
If physical activity is one of the things you want to increase but you have a bad track record with gyms and exercise programs, here’s a suggestion; instead of going to the gym, or exercising for its own sake find a sport or social activity that is physically active that you either like or have always wanted to learn. For example take an salsa dancing class or start playing a weekly basketball or tennis game with your friends. Social activities that allow you to have fun while you are being physically active make exercising easier for some people. In addition, if you are building a skill like dancing, you will probably want to practice outside of class too in order to master the skill – all the while, inadvertently increasing your physical activity.
- Don’t miss a beat, even when you miss a beat
There will probably be a day when you forget to drink that water, or can’t find any veggies to put on your plate. There’ll be times you have to skip dance class to take your dog to the vet or something. There’ll be times you just need a week off. You might not be perfect in this process, but even if you miss a day, or a session – don’t let it discourage you. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead practice self-love and kindness. Be flexible, allow yourself the room to grow and get better at this new healthy habit you’re trying to form. Come back to your commitment as soon as you are able and just keep it moving as if you never missed a beat.
With these tips and a little self-love and commitment, you can end 2016 with healthier habits than you began. Even if all you’ve achieved is one small healthy habit – you are still that much healthier. You are worth making a positive commitment to yourself this year. Make this one stick.
© 2016 Kelene Blake, All Rights Reserved