If you were like most people when New Year's Day arrived you set out on a quest to revamp your daily life. Whether it be diet, exercise, relationships, or work when the new year starts each of us is imbued with a sense of motivation to make things better than they were last year.
Unfortunately, this strong initial motivation and excitement fizzle within a few short weeks, frequently resulting in millions and millions of unfilled resolutions.
NOT THIS YEAR!
In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to create new healthy habits and make them stick!
Even better, the tips we'll outline in this article aren't just useful for helping you stick to your New Year's Resolution. You can also use these pointers to help establish any other new habit (and/or break old ones) as well as help you achieve any other personal, physical, or financial goal, too!
Let’s get started.
8 Tips to Make Those New Habits Stick
Focus on One Thing at a Time
We’ll be completely honest, establishing a new healthy habit can be hard - really, really hard. Even the most internally motivated people struggle from time to time by embracing new things and integrating them in their daily lives.
This is also what makes breaking old habits so hard. All humans, even the most flexible are all resistant to some extent or another to change.
Developing a new habit takes time, commitment, and effort.
As such, we recommend you take things slowly and try to focus on building your new healthy habits one at a time. Trying to instill too many new habits at once or break too many old ones at once is setting yourself up for failure as well as a great deal of frustration and hopelessness.
By focusing on creating, developing, and nurturing one good habit at a time (no matter how small it may be) sets you up for success and the likelihood that it will stick for good.
As a bonus, anytime you accomplish a goal in life, your body rewards you with a dopamine hit. Dopamine, in case you weren't aware, is the happy hormone/neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when completing a task.
Dopamine also helps motivate us to get started on a task and focus on the work it takes to complete that task.
Use the surge of dopamine released from establishing your first new habit to fuel you for the second one, then the third one, and so on.
Take Things Slowly
In line with the previous point, another crucial tip to keep in mind when trying to build a new habit is to take things slowly.
What do we mean by “slowly”? Well, let’s say that your goal is to clean up your diet.
If you’re like most people who try to go about revamping their diet, they try to completely overhaul their diet in one fell swoop.
Any junk food is removed from the house, the takeout menus are thrown away, and the new meals are comprised of baked chicken, boiled rice and steamed broccoli.
Even the most stalwart clean eater would be tempted to ditch such as dull, unimaginative, restrictive, and bland diet.
Rather than try to build Rome in a day, start your road to a healthier nutrition plan by making small changes one at a time. Start by breaking the larger goal of wanting to eat better into several small ones.
For example, your first week, aim to consume at least 2-3 servings of vegetables per day.
The second week keep eating the 2-3 servings of vegetables and add to it that you will consume enough protein each day.
The third week keep your habits from the first two weeks in place and then remove one "bad" thing from your diet.
Say, for instance, you’re used to having two full sugar cans of soda during the day, a candy bar, and then some ice cream at night before going to bed.
Your goal this week is to remove one of these indulgences.
So, if you “have” to have your candy and ice cream, then switch to diet soda, or if you can remove soda all together.
The fourth week, continue to phase out the “dirty” foods and phase in healthier options.
These small changes compound on themselves and build momentum.
Some people may be able to go cold turkey and completely overhaul their diet in one day, but the vast majority of people do better with taking things slowly and making small changes one at a time.
Doing so also helps reinforce that you're making long-term changes and not adopting yet another quick-fix fad diet that has you feeling deprived and itching to cheat.
This pointer isn’t relegated to New Year’s resolutions, weight loss goals, or financial dreams. It applies to everything.
If you want something, want to change some tendency you have (i.e., a habit), or want to develop a new way to do things, you have to be specific in deciding what you want and how you want to do it.
Using weight loss again as an example.
Don't merely say, "I want to lose weight."
While not entirely meaningless, failing to attach any metrics (amount of weight loss, date to have weight loss completed by, etc.) to your goal makes it less concrete, less definitive, and less likely that you will accomplish it.
Instead of saying "I want to lose weight," maybe say, "I want to lose 5 pounds in the next five weeks."
This goal is both specific and has a timeline attached to it so that you also have that little bit of pressure and motivation to accomplish your goal before the due date.
Specificity also works with establishing other habits as well.
For instance, if you want to revamp your diet or spend less time browsing social media, don't say "I want to eat better" or "I want to waste less time on social media."
Instead, tell yourself, "I will eat three servings of green vegetables today and two pieces of fruit" or "I will only spend 30 minutes on Instagram only after I've completed my meaningful work for the day."
Again, being specific gives you a more precise, more defined target to focus your mental and physical energies on, and helping you take another step towards developing and ingraining those healthy habits.
Make Sure Your Life Is in Order
Much of the advice given when it comes to getting things done in life or establishing new habits is “just do it.”
What this advice/mindset is essentially telling you is that "I don't care what's going on in your life right now. Just suck it up and do it."
While this attitude might work form a small percentage of the population, for the vast majority of people, telling them to do "x" with little regard for the other factors in their life is a bit too reductionist in our opinion.
You see, forming new habits requires a considerable amount of determination and willpower, both of which run out after a certain point.
Trying to instill new habits amidst changing jobs, movings residences, having a baby, or a zombie apocalypse is a recipe for disaster. Each of these scenarios (along with many others) brings about a considerable amount of stress. Developing new habits is also stressful to a certain point.
You have a finite ability to tolerate and recover from stress before you crack.
When trying to create new healthy habits, make sure the rest of your life is in relatively good order. Nobody’s life is perfect, and there is always something bound to happen each day, but so long the things you have to do with are relatively “small potatoes” you can work your way towards developing those new habits.
Eliminate the “Have to” Mindset
For many people, whenever they seek to change something in their lives or create a new way of doing things, they approach it from a “have to” mindset, meaning they “have to” do "x" or "y" or "z".
This "have to" mindset automatically creates a negative association with the new habit you're trying to develop and puts you in a very defensive (potentially) hostile disposition.
People often say things such as "I have to eat vegetables," "I have to lose weight," or "I have to go visit my in-laws."
Instead of looking at your new habit as a "have to," embrace a more positive, opportunistic mindset by using the phrase "get to."
Let’s say for example you struggle with wanting to go to the gym to exercise. The next time you set out for the gym, don’t tell yourself that you “have to” go exercise because it’s the right thing to do.
Instead, say “I get to go spend an hour bettering myself mentally and physically. I’m becoming stronger, more resilient.”
If more superficial things motivate you when it comes to training, you could just as easily say, “I get to go build a better set of biceps” (or glutes, pecs, etc.).
This also translates to diet, family, or anything else. Switching your mindset from “have to” to “get to” creates a sense of opportunity with a potential reward at the end, both of which put you in a more positive state of being and more motivated to do whatever it is that you are about to do.
While it may seem silly at first, this small change in your attitude towards things will pay enormous dividends for embracing and establishing new habits in your life.
Visualization is key to success with everything in life.
If you don’t believe that you are capable of achieving something, then you will not accomplish it. Plain and simple.
For example, let's say you are attempting to set a new 1-rep max on the back squat. Before you step under the bar, you have to see yourself squatting full depth and standing back up. If you don't know in your heart of hearts than you can lift the weight, then you won't.
The same can be said of breaking a bad habit. If you cannot visualize yourself avoiding or stopping whatever it is that you're trying to remove from your daily life, then you won't.
In other words, you have to believe you can do something to accomplish it.
Visualize yourself performing the bad habit, and then envision yourself stopping. Next, visualize yourself performing the good habit. Finally, make sure to envision the sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and reward you will feel at having set aside the bad habit and performed the good one.
Performing these mental exercises will set you up for success so that when you do put your plan into motion, your body will automatically go through the motions.
After all, the body follows where the mind takes it.
Visualize success in your new habit, and you WILL achieve it!
Get Support and Accountability
There comes a point in every person's life when they need support emotionally, physically, or psychologically. Referencing on of the previous points above, we all have a finite amount of determination, willpower, and resilience. Sooner or later each of us will hit a sticking point where we need some help, encouragement, and support to overcome said obstacle and continue along our path of success.
Having a friend, significant other, or family member as your accountability and support buddy can do wonders for helping you stay on track with your goals and new habit formations.
Self-motivation can take you a long way, but we all have those moments of weakness when we don’t feel like going to the gym or want to deviate from our healthy eating plan.
Having an accountability part can provide support to help you overcome the temptation to deviate from your plan of action and help you stay on locked in on your goals.
Realize You Aren’t Perfect
Nobody is perfect.
During your journey to establish new healthy habits, you will have lapses in judgment and fall back into old habits, even if just for a moment.
When it happens (and it does to all of us), realize that it is ok. You are not perfect, and you will goof up from time to time.
The more important thing is how you rebound from your slip. Do you let your minor mistake completely derail your progress and send you spiraling down into your old ways, or do you take it as a learning experience and use the mistake as fuel for your internal fire to make you better the next time.
Remember, it's not how many times you fall, but how many times you rise.
The way you come back after falling off course says volumes more about your character, determination, and work ethic than a minor lapse here or there.
And remember to stay focused on the big picture. Do not let small things derail you from achieving your end goal.
Expect a few bumps along the way and realize they are there merely to make you stronger and more resilient.
As the new year begins, we are all excited for what lies ahead. In that excitement, we make all sorts of lofty goals, but very few of them are ever truly realized.
Use the tips in this guide to help you instill those new habits and achieve more this year than in any previous one.