It’s January again, which means it’s time to start setting our intentions for the year, including our intention to (actually) commit to our Resolutions…
“This year, I will give up Carbs for good.”
“I will complete a marathon.”
“I will prioritize the start of my business and stop going out on weekends.”
And then by February…
“I guess I’ll have a third slice of pizza.”
“I have no willpower. So much for those pricey running shoes.”
“Next week I’ll buy my website domain.”
If you’re like many people who struggle to stick to the plans they’ve set for themselves for the year, it’s likely not YOU that’s the problem.
Consistency with habits is really hard, and contrary to what a lot of social messaging would have you believe, it is not because you lack willpower, are bad or less than…it’s because social media makes everything look easy. You can get fit, meal prep like a boss, or become a lifestyle Influencer with little to no effort, and your life will be endlessly wonderful. No bad days, ever. What you don’t see in the highlight reel that is social media, is the hard work that goes into achieving lasting results; the time, failures, do-overs, and probably a few tears, to make a goal into reality.
Some other reasons consistency is really hard:
- We tend to rationalize or make excuses for our “bad” choices.
- We put things off that we don’t want to do…eating healthy and exercising being at the top of the list of “un-fun” things
- Temptation is literally everywhere
- Life gets in the way
CHANGE IS HARD. And falling back on what’s comfortable and known is much easier.
Here’s the deal — it’s a lot easier to stay on track if you start small, with one habit at a time. According to UC Davis’ Integrative Medicine: “Research clearly shows that when people change a single behavior at a time, the likelihood they’ll retain that habit for a year or more is more than 80 percent. If they try to change TWO behaviors at once, their chances of success drops to less than 35 percent. And if they try to change THREE habits, their success rate plummets to less than 5 percent.”
Here are some helpful tips to make habits stick:
Establish realistic expectations
It is easy to bite off more than we can chew. When we don’t see the results we expect, that’s when we give up… and have to start all over again.
You have to start small, and that starts with your expectations.
Expectations, by the way, are not the same thing as goals. Your goal may be eventually to lose 20 pounds, but you can expect to eat healthier snacks every week. The key is to keep expectations realistic. Small steps still count!
If you expect to lose one pound a week, but you don’t see that reflected on the scale, you’re going to fall off track because you’re not seeing “results.”
Action step: Pick something positive to track your progress. How many times you successfully stuck to your habit—celebrate each success.
Change Your Environment
If you want good habits to become a lifestyle, you have to actually make changes to the things around you.
This might include the food you keep in your cupboards and fridge, your morning and nighttime routine, the ease or difficulty of access to things around you that can mitigate or help your success.
Make your home your sanctuary– a place that’s productive, peaceful and healthy. It’s one of the few environments you truly have control over.
Action Step: Plan ahead.
- Leave a big water bottle on your desk at work so you remember to drink h2O
- Put your workout clothes by your bed or in a bag in a location you won’t forget before work
- Keep non-perishable snacks — like low-sugar protein bars and peanut butter packets — in your purse or work bag so you always have healthy options on hand for when you get hungry between meal times
- Lay a yoga mat next to your bed as a reminder to stretch before you go to bed
- If you know dining with a certain friend often leads to a never-ending escalator of “treat yourself,” hang out with them outside of mealtimes. Go to the movies, shopping, go for a hike, get your nails done, work out together… do something socially-stimulating.
If you don’t have something scheduled, it’s much easier to let yourself off the hook. Find a workout buddy, or sign up for a few workout classes ahead of time at times you know you can commit to.
Tracking progress is another great way to keep yourself accountable. Seeing it in writing, in a calendar, etc. is a great way to make a promise to yourself– that you’re not going to let yourself down.
Action step: Create a simple tracking method based on your current lifestyle and daily routines. Some ideas:
- Create a daily reminder in your phone that pops up
- Keep a calendar or checklist somewhere that you will see it daily
- Add ONE healthy habit-related task to your daily agenda to check off every day
- Reward yourself…one month of consistent habits equals a spa day, or whatever self-care reward that will incentivize you. Don’t reward yourself with things like food or alcohol. These are counterproductive to a healthy lifestyle.
- Create an event in your calendar (and also carve out time) for your healthy habit. Color code it so you can see how much time you’re REALLY dedicating to it.
Shift your focus
If you typically have a negative voice when talking to and about yourself, how do you expect to maintain good habits? You’ve turned them into something negative!
Instead of focusing on something negative like LOSING weight, why not shift your focus towards GAINING healthy habits, i.e. “today, I am going to nourish my body with good food it needs to thrive,” rather than “today, I am NOT going to eat crap.” After all, what’s the alternative to “crap” here? You haven’t given yourself healthy options to replace them with.
Positive thought yields positive results. It’s as simple as that.
Make healthy choices your POSITIVE focus and you will consistently make them.
- Focus on the good things you’re going to do each day versus the “bad” things you’re going to avoid
- Set healthy goals, such as making a nutritious smoothie every morning during the work week, rather than “lose two pounds.”
- Eat slowly. Taste your food. Enjoy it. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for the gift of delicious food rather than punishment/ judgment.
- Choose exercises you enjoy. If you don’t like running, don’t do it. Exercise isn’t a punishment, it’s a celebration of what your body can do, today.
Remember that habits aren’t a life sentence. If you know what you want and focus on changing one thing at a time, you can create healthy habits that over time will develop into the lifestyle you want.