How to Pick a New Year's Resolution You Can Stick To
2022 is here! That means it's time for that age-old tradition: making new year's resolutions.
Are you centered on health and fitness, focused on employment opportunities, wanting to increase your savings, or aiming to adopt healthy habits? You can improve your chances of success with any of these resolutions by following a few easy steps.
New Year's Resolutions in a Modern World
Many of us make new year's resolutions with the full intention of seeing them through. But it rarely works out that way. As citizens of the modern world, most make new year's resolutions that focus on improving specific aspects of their lives, getting themselves into better physical and mental shape, or ditching bad habits we've picked up along the way.
Some of the most popular new year's resolutions are:
- Make health and fitness a priority
- Losing weight
- Kicking the smoking habit
- Volunteering more in the community
- Improve personal nutrition by eating better
- Pay off bills to get out of debt
- Save more money
When choosing your resolution, keep in mind that you're setting a goal you want to achieve. Success becomes easier when the resolution shifts from a chore to be done to a fully developed behavioral habit.
From New Year's Resolutions to Health and Fitness Habits
We all have small routines we perform every day, usually without giving them much thought. Things like eating breakfast or stretching before exercising. These routines and behaviors are habits.
What Is a Habit?
Here's a standard definition:
"Habit: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition...a learned mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary." - Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The habits we already have are an important part of shifting our new year's resolution into a beneficial habit. The habits we hardly notice anymore can form the building blocks for the habit your new year's resolution will become. By stacking new habits on top of established ones, you're giving your new year's resolutions a solid footing on which to build successfully.
Stack 'Em Up
Stacking habits works because you've already rooted certain behavioral patterns into your brain. For example, consider brushing your teeth. That's not a behavior you have to think about every morning; you simply do it because it's a habit that's ingrained. When you attach a new behavior you want to cultivate — your new year's resolution — to an established habit, the old supports the new.
Let's say, for example, you routinely walk your dog around the block each morning. This is an established habit for you and the dog. Your health and fitness new year's resolution may be to increase your amount of morning exercise. To accomplish this goal, you now walk dog around four blocks instead of one. You do this every day, and in a matter of weeks, you and the dog make that morning trek without breaking a sweat.
Before you know it, your health and fitness new year's resolution is as routine to you as brushing your teeth.
How to Stick to Your Resolution and Form a New Habit
A new year's resolution is nothing more than a bunch of pretty words if you find yourself not sticking to it. Pledging it is easy; fulfilling it can be harder to do. It's all a matter of how you look at it.
You've heard the saying, "You are what you eat." Let's take that basic premise a step further. Consider this: "You are the sum of your habits."
If your habit is overeating, a look in the mirror shows the results. Smoking habit got you? Your shortness of breath when taking the stairs shows the result.
If you truly want to achieve your health and fitness new year's resolution, you've got to form some new, healthier habits.
4 Steps to Building a Habit
You can break down building a habit into four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. Attacking the goal of your health and fitness new year's resolution using this simple framework makes it easier to stick to the changes you've chosen to improve your health, your fitness level, and your life.
Step 1: Cue
The cue tells your brain it's time to activate a particular behavior. The cue wakes up the part of the brain housing the habitual behavior and sets off the next step — the craving.
Step 2: Craving
The cravings are the motivation behind the habit. If there wasn't something we wanted, we'd have no inspiration to act. You don't crave the habit, but the result it delivers. It isn't the doughnut you want but the warm, soft, sugary taste in your mouth it provides. This brings us to step three — the response.
Step 3: Response
This is the habit itself, the action you perform. This is your teeth biting into the doughnut. Whether you carry through to the response phase depends on how strong your craving is. The response gives way to the last step — the reward.
Step 4: Reward
This is the goal of the habit. Rewards give us satisfaction, trigger contentment, and relieve the craving. Therefore, we let them become habits.
New Year, New You
Take control of the habits you have, stack your health and fitness new year's resolution onto them, and come out the better for it. It may not be easy, and it may not be fun. But the result could be amazing! All you have to lose is those pesky bad habits you've carried around long enough.
It's a new year. Bring on the new you!