Happy New You

Five steps to keep your New Year’s resolutions

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Recharged and full of inspiration for New Year’s resolutions

With a little luck, this is the predominant feeling after the holidays. After all, the advertisements for various 21-day challenges make it look so easy. This seems to be the perfect time to finally get started with dormant plans to improve your life. However, drastically and radically changing your life does not necessarily get you the results you were hoping for. Here are five tips that will help to make your resolutions evolve into behaviors that will last!

Step 1 – Set the bar low

Take tiny steps. It is more effective to consistently take small, incremental steps that can actually be sustained. Wanting to learn or change too many habits at the same time can be counterproductive. Ultimately, the outcome can cause the opposite effect – feelings of despair and demotivation of not sticking with any habit at all. Focus on changing one habit at the time. Keep the two-minute rule in mind: Start a new habit with a time investment of two minutes a day. This helps to practice behavior with minimum effort, which leads to the end goal. If it takes less than two minutes, do it right away. Instead of reading one book a week, start reading one page a day. Starting small and with the right focus, will lead to success. 

Step 2 – Formulate a clear plan

Instead of formulating vague plans such as “I am going to eat healthier,” or “I am going to invest more time in my marriage,” it is important to form a clear plan. Without a concrete plan, there is little chance that your plan will actually succeed. Write down the habit that will fit into the existing schedule, when and where. Use an existing habit as a trigger to provoke the new, desired behavior. For example: “I will call my family ten minutes every day after breakfast/before going to sleep,” or “After waking up in the morning, I will immediately put on my workout clothes.” The more concrete the plan is, the better. 

Extra tip: Remind yourself as often as possible. Set an alarm, leave notes or put reminders on your agenda. The more frequent you are facing your resolutions, the more it helps you stick with them!  

Step 3 – Make it pleasant

The rewarding hormone dopamine plays an important role in learning and unlearning habits. The production of dopamine in the brain ensures that certain behaviors produce a “kick.” The expectation of that reward ensures you do it again. By ensuring that the desired behavior becomes irresistible, makes it easier to stick with it. Link new, more difficult behavior to things you enjoy doing. Do something difficult first, then reward yourself after with something you enjoy. For example, get in the workout first – reward it with a hot bath later. Sometimes your personal environment can impact your goals, positively and negatively. It can be helpful to share your goals with people who are close and spend time with like-minded people who are striving toward the same thing. If people around you eat healthily, it is easier to also eat healthier. 

Extra tip: Avoid unhealthy reward systems that contradict the newly learned behavior. Try to focus on more constructive rewards that might even help to reach the goals, like buying new workout clothes or finally making time to read a magazine. 

Step 4: Avoid distractions 

It is easier to be successful in reaching your goals when you are less likely to be tempted to make bad decisions. Take a critical look around to see what triggers certain behaviors. When distracted by your phone while working, leave it in another room on silent. Want to snack? Do not buy the snacks. It is easier to avoid temptation than to resist it. It works the other way around too. If a goal is to read more, always have a book. Want to drink more water? Always have a bottle of water with you. 

Step 5: Do not give up!

When starting a new habit, everyone can encounter a relapse. Make sure not to get stuck and keep going strong afterward. Even when you miss a day, pick up where you left off the next day. 

Final thoughts: 

Beginning is often difficult, which applies to both habits and large tasks. Every day, every hour and every minute can be a good time to start with new goals and habits. However, there are indicators that after the hustle of the holidays and the beginning of a new calendar year is an opportune time focus on changes in behavior and to take action. Take advantage of the momentum and get started now! Happy New Year!

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