This time of year, many people make New Year’s Resolutions, and often by February they have forgotten about their plan. The key to creating a new habit and sticking with it is to make the resolution realistic.
- Starting small is the best way to create a new habit. You can build on your habit once it is part of your routine. If your goal is to exercise, start with a goal of 5–10 minutes. It is easier to stick to a short commitment when creating a new habit. If you would like to make changes in your eating habits, again start small. Choose one area to change – perhaps only cutting out sweets or the afternoon soda.
- Reminders can help you maintain your plan. How many times have you grabbed a handful of candy and forgotten about your new plan until after you swallowed! A reminder note on your refrigerator or at your desk might be just what you need to remember your goal.
- Don’t think about it – just do it. The mind is a powerful tool. If you think too much about going to the gym, likely you can talk yourself out of it. If you don’t give yourself the option, it will more likely become a habit. Tell yourself you will go for ten minutes and if you still want to leave after ten minutes, allow yourself to leave. Creating the habit is more important initially than duration. Showing up is half the battle!
- Feeling better is key to continuing habits. If you feel better (emotionally/physically), likely you will keep up your new habit. Pay attention to how you feel, check in with yourself as you begin your new habit. If you feel more relaxed from meditating, more energized from exercising, or lighter from dieting, you are more likely to continue regardless of what the scale says.
- New habits can take four to six weeks to become part of your routine. Keep at it. Remember why you wanted to start this new habit and keep going!
Good luck and Happy New Year!
Debra Niemasz, MSW, LICSW, is a counselor at the Employee and Family Assistance Program at The University of Vermont Medical Center. She has practiced as a clinical social worker for more than 25 years. She specializes in parenting/divorce issues, depression, anxiety, life transition, and working with military members and families.