2021 will be the year for you to make some serious changes to help you become the “new you”.
But one or two months into the new year, you’ve somehow, fallen back into old habits and wondering what went wrong.
Don’t you worry, you’re not alone.
Research shows that 80% of people that make New Year’s resolutions don’t continue applying the changes past February.
If that many people lose their resolve that quickly, there’s nothing wrong with you. The problem is in the tradition itself, so I’ll share some tips with you on how you can make long term changes.
Tips on How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolve
Here are some pointers.
Create small, actionable steps
The Romans didn’t build Rome in one day (I also love the T.Shirt slogan that “Oprah wasn’t built in a day!). So it goes without saying that trying to instantly change habits that have been part of your life for years won’t be a walk in the park.
I’ll be candid with you.
I don’t want you to invest your time, money and emotions in something that will not work, so I’ll tell you the truth.
Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations regarding how fast they can adjust to a new lifestyle. It takes a very short time for you to feel overwhelmed by all the changes – especially if you are making them all at once.
And that leads to one thing; going back to the very same behaviour or routines that you’re running away from.
So have a plan in place which includes setting small steps.
For instance, if you want to start eating healthier, do not jump straight into fad diets. Lots of scientific studies prove that they are not a permanent solution for weight loss (with a less than 5% success rate they keep the billion dollar weight loss industry churning!).
They subject your body to unhealthy wear and tear. They will only work in the short term (while you stick to these crazy diets, but the pounds will start creeping back in the long run – they may even start coming back in the short term if most of the “loss” was from water weight.
You start feeling extremely tired and weak because your body is in shock. Then you begin craving foods – often high sugar and food foods. This is not a matter of will power. More recent scientific studies are showing that different unhealthy gut bacteria (that flourish in times of stress and with a poor, highly processed diet) can release substances that tell your brain to “crave” different foods.
What follows is a slippery slope into old habits that your body is familiar with. You might even end up gaining more weight than you had before (this can happen when you lose muscle reducing your metabolic rate and the amount of calories you burn).
So what works?
Start by making small tweaks to your diet. For instance, if you start of the day with a sugar filled breakfast cereal, try changing it for rolled oats or eggs and mushrooms and tomato. Include more non-starchy vegies to help keep you full such as salad, shredded cabbage, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber etc. Munch on vegie sticks with protein e.g. hummus and fruit like berries or apples.
Focus on one major dietary change each week if you have a history of finding it hard to stick to eating healthy. Try and identify what went wrong in the past – did you go to extreme? Do you not like the taste of vegetables? Do you need to learn some more recipes and cooking techniques or even get home delivered healthy meals as an option?
The point is to make small increments, and eventually, your body will adapt. Anyone who has cut down on sugar will tell you that after a few months of eating this way they often can’t eat the foods they used to as they just taste too sweet. Making healthy changes that you can imagine continuing for life and can become a part of your lifestyle can be very effective.
If you can’t imagine doing this exercise or eating this way in one or two years time then maybe it’s too extreme and you need to start with something easier. Examples include cutting down (or out) sugar and milk in teas and coffee, having vegie sticks and hummus for a snack, having extra vegies at lunch and dinner and having fruit and yogurt for dessert. That is the easiest way to create habits that will be long term rather than short-lived ones.
Start at any time
Don’t wait for the New Year to start working on your plans. If you want to lose weight, start making the small steps as soon as you decide to do so, to make the change a continuous process.
If you want to start becoming a better employer, start by reviewing your work policies today. That will help you spot areas that could be affecting your employees negatively.
For instance, do you pay them for overtime? Do they get sufficient leave days? Are there clear roles for each job?
In addition, be open with your staff and ask them for anonymous feedback.
This goes to employees as well. Start being proactive in bringing solutions to problems. Come to work on time and so on.
That will help avoid the anxiety that comes with the anticipation of beginning your journey to make changes. Most people end up panicking, getting overwhelmed and not embarking on it at all.
Adjust your mindset
Most people don’t follow through with plans because they don’t prepare their minds adequately. Making changes is no easy feat.
Tell your brain that making a switch from a life you’re already used to will be challenging. That will wire your brain not to quit, and instead and soldier on. It has taken time for your neural paths (habits) to form – the good news is your brain is constantly reviewing, trimming and making new connections (neuroplasticity) so keep repeating these tiny, easy and action-orientated steps to strengthen the neural pathways and eventually become a habit.
You can help this process by building a new habit onto an established habit (e.g. doing squats while brushing your teeth, taking a walk with your morning coffee, doing some stationary bike riding when watching T.V. and having a glass of water after going to the toilet.
Always keep your end goal in mind.
You need to make changes to make your life better, whether it’s about your health, career or finances, right?
So never forget “the why.”
Always keep the end goal in mind and think about it every time you feel like discontinuing the journey. That will give you the focus that you need to kick the bad habits out of your life.
Don’t be part of the statistics showing most people fail to implement their plan to make changes. Creating habits works better than doing it for short term gains.
Make small steps, don’t wait for a specific time to start and always keep the end goal in mind. That will help you become a better version of yourself that will stay with you for good.
Acknowledgement: Eve Carrie Writer