What are your goals for the coming year?
Do any of the following ring a bell?
- Dropping bad eating habits
- Maintaining an active lifestyle by working out regularly
- Being a better parent, sibling, friend.
- Reaching greater heights career-wise
- Being a better employer or employee
The list is endless.
You probably plan on making a list of New Year’s resolutions on the 31st of December with the best intentions at heart.
And you won’t be alone.
Research shows that more than 50% of adults plan to make resolutions at the end of 2020.
But let’s be real for a moment:
For a lot of people, making plans is one thing. However, sticking to them is a whole other ballgame.
The biggest enemy of progress lies in the method that we use to initiate changes. Some will work like a charm, while others will fail miserably.
Scientific studies show that the best way to make permanent changes is to build habits rather than having New Year resolutions. Here are the reasons why creating patterns and working with bite-sized changes will work better in the long turn.
Why working with habits is better than new year resolutions.
Daily habits won’t strain your body.
Building new habits force you to focus on daily goals rather than ambiguous resolutions. For instance, someone looking to lose weight can concentrate on eating more vegetables and fruits and less junk food and making these changes one after the other using small actionable steps (I’ve found that clients can easily lose weight by cutting out milk from their teas and coffees – now you don’t need to do this if you love your latte but it is an example of a easy habit that for some will make little difference but aid weight loss. Think about getting a full dietary analysis and food suggestions if this is an area you’d like to work on).
On the other hand, a resolution may just be as general as “losing weight.” Most people will go overdrive on this, trying to avoid eating anything that makes them gain weight at once—or perhaps overworking their bodies with strenuous workouts.
Now this will get you tired in a very short while. Instead of waking up in the morning looking forward to continuing with the process, you’ll slowly start hating it, eventually quitting.
Daily goals will never make you feel like you’re straining your body. Doing one thing at a time will slowly assimilate you into the transition for long term gains. Remember the progress is in the process.
Small actionable steps are clearer.
Imagine that you’re sitting in class learning how to solve a mathematical problem. Your teacher won’t dive straight into giving you an answer, right?
A good tutor will share with you the best formula on how to arrive at the solution. In other words, a step by step guide on how to best do your math.
The more you practice using the formula, the better you become.
The same case applies to making changes using small sustainable steps.
In short, small goals are much easier to understand.
Once you lay down your daily goals, the rest will be easy. You will have all the information regarding what to do to reach these instead of one huge unclear plan.
For instance, you will get better results knowing that you should workout at a minimum of 20 minutes a day rather than the broader term “exercise”. Seek support by a qualified exercise professional for a personalized plan. I also like to encourage “enjoyable movement” every day. This is something that is fun to you and something you will look forward to. E.g. dancing, walking, swimming at the beach, stretching etc.
Smaller goals are easier to commit to
If you know that you’re only supposed to do a little bit of something every day, then you have no problem doing it. Knowing that you have to wake up each day and do something that doesn’t feel overwhelming is a motivation in itself. The opposite happens when you feel like you have to adapt to a long list of new ways of doing things almost instantly. That can be overwhelming and lead not only to going back to your old ways but also taking a backwards slide (e.g. binging, lazing around the house, drinking too much alcohol etc..).
It’s easier to work with incorporating more fruit (especially berries!!) into your diet for a few weeks rather than adapting to 20 healthy habits in the first day. Therefore, if you want to steadily work towards your goals for best results following through with your plans, healthy habits work better.
Habits offer personal value.
Research shows that habits work better because they allow you to choose what will work for you. Therefore, you’re more likely to see value in it rather than some resolutions that could be vague.
Are you using a doctor or physician to help you to make changes? A good one will allow you to choose habits that you feel will be more beneficial to you. An even better one will refer you to the appropriate allied health experts so that they can offer you a wide variety of options to choose from and help you personalize these nutrition and exercise habits to meet your needs.
That will sustain your interest to accomplish your own goals, rather than feeling like you’re doing it to make someone else happy.
Small habits don’t feel forced.
It’s normal human behaviour to get rebellious when you feel like you MUST do something. (I must admit as soon as someone says I must do something I immediately want to do the opposite!! )The problem with New Year resolutions is that they feel like rigid rules that you have to follow. That’s no fun.
In a short while, you start feeling like you have a new and exhausting job to pile on top of your already busy schedule.
Creating habits, on the other hand, takes a friendlier approach. There’s no pressure to do anything, making it easier for you to focus on the changes you want to make.
Habits are not all about hype.
For most people, making New Year resolutions is something they have to do every beginning of the year. So, for them, it’s more of a tradition than anything else.
On the other hand, habits become part of you with time. They “worm” themselves into your life. It’s like breathing and brushing your teeth. It’s something that you do every day.
Making changes using habits is more successful in helping you make permanent changes. Compared to New Year resolutions, patterns are not-hype related and are easy to commit to. They also don’t feel forced, are clearer and don’t strain your body, so you’re less likely to give up halfway. Look to start develoing healthier habits for a healhier lifestyle.
Acknowledgement: Eve Carrie Writer
For those interested in research check out our scientific paper on healthy habits and weight loss here https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324706714_Habit-based_interventions_for_weight_loss_maintenance_in_adults_with_overweight_and_obesity_a_randomized_controlled_trial
A great book on habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear.