How to keep New Year’s resolutions
In my previous article, I talked about the four reasons why developing a new habit is hard. If you’ve already tried and failed to stick to your New Year’s resolution in 2022—or any other life change for that matter—then this article is for you.
I’m going to share with you my top four tips on how to successfully set and implement new goals and habits.
Create headspace and reduce stress.
Create headspace and reduce stress. Creating a new habit means creating a new neural pathway in your brain. This takes energy and focus. If you are feeling stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or under the weather you won’t have the resources to accomplish it. If you already have too much going on you are not going to have the necessary energy and headspace to build the neural pathway that turns a conscious action into a familiar habit. You only have so much energy available in a day, so give yourself a chance of success by clearing the decks.
Daily exercise helps. It reduces stress and improves blood flow, taking much-needed oxygen to the brain to help build that new neural path. Good food is important too—especially making sure you have a plentiful supply of Omega 3. These fatty acids are an essential part of creating the myelin sheath around the neural pathway, protecting it and making it stronger.
Get really clear on the benefits of your new habit.
Get really clear on the benefits of your new habit. Humans are hard-wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Focus on the positive and don’t allow yourself to consider any downsides. Try writing a list of fifty benefits of your new habit, or create a vision board. You can also think about the negatives of NOT changing your lifestyle. For example, if you are trying to give up smoking a downside of failure might be early death and not seeing your children grow up. Creating an image of a future where you are fit and healthy, playing with your grandchildren is the positive reinforcement of this idea.
Take small, gradual steps.
Take small, gradual steps. Our brains need changes to be as non-threatening and familiar as possible. Anything that is too radical sets off an alarm in the old part of our brain—the amygdala—where our survival instinct will trigger the fight, flight or freeze response. We then immediately backtrack to the safe and familiar which is often the very habit we’re trying to replace. By starting small and building up gradually you are much more likely to be successful. Begin a new activity with just a few minutes a day. Try to establish a routine of the same time and same place so that it becomes familiar as quickly as possible.
Give yourself time.
Give yourself time. Remember, you’re building a whole new neural pathway, and this means doing the same thing over and over until it becomes a habit. Just like creating a new footpath through overgrown woodland, you need to keep treading down the undergrowth, again and again until the path becomes well-defined and easy to follow.
It can take up to three months to really establish a new routine. For that period of time make sure you schedule the time you need. Block it out on your calendar, and monitor your progress. Build in a reward system to keep yourself motivated along the way. Every week you complete, or each month or other milestone give yourself a treat of some kind.
Now you know the four biggest hurdles you have to overcome, and the four best ways to tackle them. I wish you all the best with achieving your goals and maintaining your New Year’s resolutions.
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