I absolutely love this time of year because it promises a new start and there’s little I love more than a new start! A chance to be better, to do better.
But no matter what time of year, changing the way you do things can be challenging. Even with the best intentions. And what happens when the inspiration is gone? Does that mean you call it quits? Well, not if you can create the right habits.
Easier said than done, I get it. But when you break it down, a habit is just the thing you do when something else happens. It’s often not something you think much about or plan out. It’s something you’ve done for long enough that you don’t really need to put much thought into it.
For example, the first thing I do when I wake up is look around for my dogs. I don’t open my eyes and look at the clock or drink a glass of water or try to recall what I have planned for the day…well, not until I’ve looked for my dogs. That’s my habit. When I wake up I look for my dogs. Those two things are LINKED and I’ve practiced this link enough that now it’s mindless for me. And those other things I mentioned like “look at my clock” follow closely, but not before I’ve found and hugged my dogs.
I remember when I was trying to add some daily cardiovascular exercise to my routine. I struggled so much with when I should do it, how I would get myself pumped up to do it, how could I convince myself to do it, etc. Then I realized that all I had to do was LINK together something I already did automatically with my new habit (exercise).
Well, to begin, I realized that at the end of the day when I started to feel a little tired, I would go sit on my couch. And this happened automatically, thoughtlessly and without effort. It was “oh, I feel tired” so I sit on the couch. So I chose this opportunity to switch the link and add in a new activity (exercise) that, with practice, would become a habit.
I figured, “What if when I feel tired I go for a walk?” At first, it wasn’t a habit, it was a conscious thought that went something like, “Man, I feel tired, usually I sit on the couch, but I’m gonna walk around the block before I do that.” And this was my thought for a couple weeks until I had trained myself in the new habit. Eventually, the habit became mindless (which is what makes it a habit!). Now, when I feel tired, my instinct is to go put on my sneakers and get some exercise. I’m used to it, it’s comfortable and I know exactly how it will make me feel.
But if I hadn’t LINKED ‘the feeling of being tired later in the day’ to ‘exercising,’ it would’ve been much harder. I could’ve chosen ‘feeling stressed,’ or ‘when I start to get hungry before lunch,’ or ‘after I talk to my mom’, or ‘when I look at the clock and it’s 10am.’ It doesn’t matter what the ‘trigger’ is, it just matters that you choose one and then link in and practice your new habit.
Start looking at your daily and weekly activities and just notice all of your habits. “When this happens…I do this.” You have so many! Now think about something you really wish you could do in the new year and see if you can link the two. Don’t worry if you slip up, no one said making or changing habits would be totally easy. But with a little thought and awareness, I know you can do it!