By: Maurine Anderson
January is a time when many people are working on their New Year’s resolutions. Some of the resolutions we make are rather simple, but the majority of them require a serious change in our habits. A resolution to exercise, for example, will require you to make time in your daily routine for a workout at the gym. A resolution to eat better, meanwhile, will require you to change the way you’re used to grocery shopping, planning meals, and cooking meals.
Successful resolution keeping, then, calls for a change in habits. But how do you really dig deep and change your habits so that you can achieve your goals for good? Here are some essential tips for changing your habits so that you can truly keep your New Year’s resolutions this year.
Identify your habit’s root cause.
What habit, exactly, are you trying to break? Overeating? Compulsive online shopping? Skipping your daily gym workout? Try to determine the root cause of a bad habit before you try to break it.
If your resolution for the new year is to lose weight, for example, try to pinpoint what has kept you from losing weight in the past. If it’s a habit of overeating, think about what triggers your overeating in the first place. Is it stress? Boredom? A medical condition that needs to be addressed? After you pinpoint what is fueling a bad habit and address it, it will become much easier to turn the habit on its head.
Give it two months.
You’ve probably heard it said that if you commit to doing something for three weeks, it will thereafter be a habit. This idea comes from a 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed that patients took an average of three weeks to grow accustomed to their new features. A 2009 study conducted in the U.K., however, found that people actually take an average of 66 days for their new habits to “solidify.” So if you aim to develop a new habit and feel that you aren’t quite there in three weeks, take heart—you just need to give it another month or so. On the plus side, maintaining your new habit will become easier the longer you work at keeping it.
Don’t get intimidated.
Many people approach changing a life habit with the mindset that they have to have this huge amount of willpower in order to make it happen. But if you think about it, developing a new habit is more about diligence and consistency than it is about willpower. Really, a new habit comes from making the same daily decision over and over again. You only ever need enough willpower to get through that decision each day.
Change your environment.
It’s incredible, the difference that changing your environment can make. As this article points out, sometimes relocating to an entirely new place is the best way to bring about a major change in your life. Relocating affords you the opportunity to create an entirely new routine from scratch. It’s not always practical to move, of course, but if it makes sense for you to do so in your particular situation, it might be worth considering if you’re setting major goals for yourself this year.
Keep a journal.
Keeping a journal is a great way to make changing your habits more tangible. The simple act of writing your goal down can help keep you focused on your goals while giving you something to look back on weeks and months down the road. Go back and read your goals and progress as often as you need to in order to stay motivated.
Talk to someone.
Talking to someone about wanting to change your habits is another way to strengthen your efforts. Tell someone about the habits you want to change so that they can help hold you accountable. Ask them to check in with you on your progress if you think that will help you. Or, if you know someone who has similar habits to your own that they would like to change, ask them to join you in your goals.