Successful Strategies for New Year’s Resolutions Part 2

1-newyears-resolutionsSo hopefully from yesterday’s post you’ve realized that to change habits successfully, you need to make a plan.  And then you need to break the overall goal into smaller steps or chunks of tasks that you can accomplish daily.

My next piece of advice will help your mind commit to whatever plan you have made.

3. It takes 14-21 days to make a new habit

All you are really trying to do, whether it’s learning an instrument or eating better, is create new habits.  Habits are formed by making the same choice repeatedly over a period of time.  Studies show that your brain only needs up to 3 weeks for a habit to form.  That means that if you choose to eat a salad every night at dinner for three weeks a salad eating habit is now formed.  Or if you wake up early and walk every morning for at least three weeks, you  will have developed an exercise habit.

Pretty cool.  There is a catch, however.  You must do the new activity every day without missing or skipping.  If you miss it for just one day, you have to start over because the pathways in our brain won’t have made a solid connection for habit formation.

You can create new habits but you will always have the option to go back to the old habit too.  You have to choose wisely.  I tell my clients to imagine habit creation in the brain kind of like shoveling snow in a blizzard.  It will eventually be a clear path but you have to keep shoveling.

The good news is that you can do anything for three weeks.  And if you commit to it, by the end of 21ish days, you will have a much easier time choosing your healthy habit.  It will be like you can’t not do it.

4. Start small and get bigger

Two of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to make lifestyle changes is that they try to go big or not at all and they take on too many changes at once.

Avoid these mistakes by accepting that if you choose one thing- – one manageable healthy habit- – and stick with it, you will continue to build on that and eventually chose another healthy habit.

For example, losing weight is a big goal for people.  Nutrition is attributed to 80% of weight loss.  But exercise is also a component to a healthy body and mind.  Which do you choose?  Where do you start?

I suggest you begin with nutrition.  Commit to eating more fruit and less packaged sweets.  Or have a low sugar commitment.  Or go gluten-free for three months and see the difference.  Once you start seeing results, you will want to choose even more healthy habits.

Another route is to start with exercise and get the happy feelings flowing from your workout.  This is perfectly fine.  But choose a workout that feels good to you now (not to you 10 years ago) and stick with it.  15 minutes walking is better than no minutes running.

After a month of walking, you will feel better in your mind and will most likely begin naturally choosing healthier foods.

Bottom line: start somewhere now.

Stay tuned for some more tips about how to set yourself up for a successful 2015.