Before the “New Year, New Me” attitude fades too much, it’s probably a good time to talk about how our great intentions or resolutions can actually become lasting lifestyle changes. How can you prevent getting discouraged by February and giving up? There’s a lot of science behind how to make good habits stick, so if we get proven methods on our side, we have a lot better chance for them to become permanent.
What Really Works?
The key is small steps first, then build–slowly. Don’t try to do it all in a day. Massive changes are rarely sustainable. Remember – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Multiple studies suggest that we develop habits that stick by…
1. Choosing the right habits to change (make them realistic)
2. Making the first ones small, achievable, and linked to a “reminder”
3. Tying them to routine things we’re already doing
4. Making them so easy, we can’t say no (The easiest way to encode the new behavior)
Resist the Feeling of Everything Now
Too often the biggest barrier is feeling pressure to make huge changes, rather than small doable ones. Experts suggest we start by picking out 2-3 small changes we truly want to make. It also helps to define our why—the reason it’s important to us.
Tie Change to a Visible Reminder
Research shows the more visible the “reminder,” the more likely it is to trigger the new behavior. For example, if you want to floss your teeth more, put floss picks in the same cup that holds the toothpaste. The normal flow becomes: brush teeth, floss immediately afterward – one is tied to the other.
Alter the landscape
If your goal is eat healthier and slim down, but when you reach for a snack you only find cupcakes and chips, take cupcakes and chips out of the picture. When the package is done, don’t buy another one. Hit the eject button one at a time to curb the feeling of major loss, and how deprived we feel. Say instead, “I’m really making steady progress toward a healthier me.”
The reward is experiencing real, lasting change (maybe for the first time). Celebrate—not with the thing you’re trying to get rid of, but something else that makes the effort feel worth it and tells you there’s a reason for cheering.