New Year’s resolutions center around changing habits. Regardless of whether you are hoping to ditch an unhealthy habit or adopt a healthy new one, you will need to get your mind involved in your plan. You not only have to be aware of the changes you want to make, you have to practice those changes in order to modify the pattern of connections in the brain that will reflect those changes. We are back to consciously choosing changes and consciously practicing those changes. Here are a few tips:
- Many experts agree that it takes at least twenty-one days to change a behavior. So, mark a date on your calendar to start the change. Now, count ahead twenty-one days and mark that day as well. Make a commitment that you will follow your plan for at least those twenty-one days. You can reevaluate on the end date.
- Next, work on one habit at a time. If you work on more than one habit change at a time, you run the risk of feeling too overwhelmed to change any habits at all.
- Create a plan and write it down. There is something about the written word. It forces us to think and reflect and consciously make choices. Write your plan in a positive frame and include action goals. For example, if your overall resolution is to be more physically fit, your positive, specific action goal might include, “I will spend thirty minutes doing weight-bearing exercises two times each week.”
- List your reasons for changing or adopting a habit. Writing down the reasons forces you to think it through, and listing your reasons will nudge you to contemplate how your actions will be a reflection of your life.
- Now, refine your plan. Put your plan on hold for a day or two. Then look at the plan with fresh eyes. Is it realistic? Make adjustments on the front end so you can follow the doable plan.
- When you are satisfied that your resolution and plan are realistic, make your mini-plans. These are little actions more specific than action goals. If your action goal is to spend thirty minutes doing weight-bearing exercises two times each week, when will that occur and how? These are the specifics of how you will implement your intentions.
- After you have refined your plan with mini-plans, you then need to repeat, repeat, repeat, and practice, practice, practice! Repetition and practice are what habits are all about. As you repeat and practice your new or adopted routine over and over again, you are creating a new habit, a new way of being. It won’t be long until the new choice and its associated behaviors will be the automatic choice and behaviors.
You can do it!