Love them or hate them, every January there is a lot of focus on New Year’s resolutions at this time of year. For some, New Year resolutions encourage us to reflect on where we’re at, and what we’d like to work on.
Planning for a positive change can build-up excitement and produce a surge of motivation as we bid farewell to the previous year, and welcome in the new with gusto and a rousing few lines of Auld Lang Syne.
But the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that while most of us start off with a hiss and a roar, as the weeks go on our initial burst of motivation starts to fade, everyday stresses of life return, you realise you’ve been a tad too ambitious, and we struggle to make new habits stick.
If your resolution has fallen by the wayside don’t lose hope – you are not alone! In fact, according to US news, around 80% of resolutions fail before the second week of February. The good news? There’re a few hacks you can use to drastically improve your chances of making a new positive habit stick.
If you’re making a change or starting a new habit the best thing you can do to improve your chances are start small.
Don’t try to completely change your life in one day. It’s easy to get over-motivated and take on too much. If you want to read for one hour a day, give reading for 5 minutes a day a go and, if you can, build up from there. Even if you don’t manage to increase the time you spend reading it’s not the end of the world – reading for 5 minutes a day is still better than not reading at all. The same goes for anything - want to run for 5kms? Start with walking around the block, then twice around the block, and keep building up from there.
It’s those little successes which give us the motivational boost to keep it going. Breaking it down into tiny, more achievable goals drastically increases the chances of making that habit stick.
Write it down
Take the time to write your plan for how you intend to make your new habit stick, and keep it someplace where you'll you see it every day. Seeing it every day will reinforce the new habit and will remind you why it's important.
You don’t have to do this alone! In fact there’s more chance of you succeeding with your new habit if you team up and do it with a friend. It’s hard to put off a walk round the Hagley Park when your bestie turns up on your doorstep in their walking shoes.
One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then ‘stack’ your new habit on top. This is called habit stacking.
It’s about using something you already do on a daily basis, and then finding ways to implement your new habit into it.
Habit stacking examples include spending one minute during your daily shower to practice mindfulness (start by feeling the heat of the water and the drops on your skin), and saying something you are grateful for each time you sit down for dinner.
By stacking with already ingrained habits, over time you’ll automatically associate your new positive habit with your daily routine. Pretty cool eh!
Celebrate the small wins
Celebrating your little wins is crucial for keeping your motivation levels high. Your brain will release dopamine when you consciously celebrate a victory. Dopamine is fuel for motivation and making new habits stick.
It doesn’t need to be a big celebration. Just acknowledging the progress you’re making and how good it’s making you feel is a great boost. Sharing your wins with your whānau and friends is another great way to build encouragement.
Make it fun
It's no use beating yourself up when you don't meet all of your goals. Sticking to a new habit doesn't have to cause you stress. If you make it small, achievable, and social then it should be fun and make you feel great!
If you want to exercise more often and the thought of getting sweaty at a gym makes you wilt, why not invent a fun way to get exercise by stealth such as dedicating a time every day to put on your favourite dance music at home and let rip?
Don’t Give Up
It's easy to walk away from something when we are mad or disappointed in ourselves. Remember that missing a day or three doesn’t mean you’ve failed; take a longer term view – a month, a season, a year and realise there will be the odd ‘slip up’.
Make it stick with a Habit Stick
If you need a bit more help to make your new habit stick then give the All Right? Habit Stick a go. It’s small enough to carry around with you, and easy to whip out and give yourself a tick when you’ve achieved your mini goal for the day.