Creating Habits Instead of Making Resolutions
The new year is an ideal time to make changes in our lives, which is why New Year’s resolutions are so popular. You may resolve to get into shape, stop eating junk food, save up for retirement, or quit wasting time on social media. But resolutions can be difficult to keep. In fact, learning how to stick to New Year’s resolutions is a process all on its own. Luckily, there’s a simpler way than using willpower, which is a limited resource. If you want to know how to keep resolutions, habits can offer the path to change that you’ve been looking for. In fact, don’t make resolutions; create habits instead.
If you want to know how to keep resolutions, habits can offer the path to change that you’ve been looking for. In fact, don’t make resolutions; create habits instead.
How to Keep Your Resolutions with Habits
If you’re intent on making resolutions, you’ll need habits to help you keep them. But the truth is that you can dispense with the idea of a resolution and focus solely on habits to make the transformation you’re seeking. Resolutions tend to put us in a pass-or-fail mentality: Failing once at a resolution can make you give up entirely. Alternatively, habits involve learning and growth, which is a more productive mindset. Habits are built over time, so the ups and downs are a natural part of the process, and this makes you more likely to stick with them. Over time, they become effortless and require no willpower.
How to Break a Bad Habit
Why are bad habits so hard to break? The answer is because they’re rewarding, and our brains work on a reward system. So, you don’t really break habits; you replace them. Any healthy habit that you want to use to replace a bad habit needs to be rewarding as well.
Let’s say your goal is to stop eating junk food in the afternoon. To break your junk food habit, you need to substitute it with a new habit that’s healthy, but still feels satisfying. Exercise is a good idea, but it’s not as immediately rewarding as junk food. You need an immediate reward to help exercise replace your junk food habit.
According to CNN, “temptation bundling” is a concept where you pair something you really like (a favorite TV show, for example) with something you don’t like as much (like exercise), which makes it easier to build a habit that isn’t initially rewarding. If you decide to only watch your favorite TV show while you exercise in the afternoon, you have replaced the reward of junk food with the reward of entertainment. Because you’ve worked with your brain’s reward system, your junk food habit won’t last, and your exercise habit is more likely to stick.
How Do You Create a New Habit?
How do you create a new habit? Maybe you may want to make more friends. Adjusting your day to include something new will require breaking into the pattern of your day with the habit of meeting people and following up with them. To do this, you want to add the habit before or after something you already do, such as eating dinner. Deciding to go to a social event or call a new friend after dinner is the best way to get into a routine that will help you build relationships. As The New York Times (NYT) reports, “The best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing habit.”
You also want to use your context to help build your habit. Context can make certain behaviors automatic, like how you buckle your seatbelt after you get into your car. You don’t have to think about buckling your seatbelt; you never have to put it on your to-do list. It’s a reaction to getting in the car. According to the British Journal of General Practice, “Once initiation of the action is ‘transferred’ to external cues, dependence on conscious attention or motivational processes is reduced.” So if you want to go to the gym after work, make sure your gym bag is in the front seat of your car. When you get in your car after work, you’ll see the gym bag and be reminded to go to the gym.
You may have heard that it takes 21 days, but the reality is that simple habits can be built in just a few days, and complex habits may take months.
But how long does it take to create a habit? You may have heard that it takes 21 days, but the reality is that simple habits can be built in just a few days, and complex habits may take months. NYT reveals that the median amount of time to build a habit is 66 days. Your habit will be built faster if you do it every day.
Create a Recovery Lifestyle in the New Year
You may be resolving to quit drinking alcohol or doing drugs in the new year. But if you want to succeed, don’t make resolutions; create habits instead. At The Meadows Outpatient Center, our program is about helping you build the habits that form a fulfilling lifestyle of recovery. Having support can be crucial to creating healthy habits that last. We want to support you in developing a healthy life free from substance use and negative behaviors. Contact us today to learn more!