Some of the most popular new year's resolutions include exercising more and improving fitness, losing weight, saving money, and improving diet.
Then the next number might disappoint you: Studies have shown that approximately 80% of New Year's resolutions fail within a couple of weeks! Some say this number is even higher.
Why do so many New Year's resolutions fail?
In today's blog post we want to examine, what is the secret to building good habits and how small tweaks can help you lead a healthier life.
The secret to building good habits
If you want to learn about habits we recommend reading the international bestseller “Atomic Habits - An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Old Ones” by James Clear.
This popular book explains common misconceptions about goal setting and shows how tiny improvements on a daily basis can lead to amazing results over a long period of time.
One of the most important takeaways is: If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
For example: If you are a musician your goal might be to play a certain song on the piano. In order to get there you need a system which involves daily practice, regular feedback from your instructor etc.
According to James Clear the Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
The reason why so many new year's resolutions fail is that people want to change everything at once or they start with something that is way too big - and most importantly - they lack a clear system or plan.
The other thing to bear in mind: Building habits usually takes some time. James Clear writes in his blog: “On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.”
Remember: Lasting change never happens overnight!
1. Start with something that is ridiculously easy
Here are some things we suggest if you want to implement healthy habits in the new year.
Start slowly and pick a goal that is achievable. Let's say you want to start walking. Instead of planning 1 hour walks right away, make a commitment to walk at least 10-15 minutes a day. Pick a time that fits your schedule and make it so easy that you can't say no.
Once you feel comfortable with your small walk you can start slowly increasing it by a few minutes. After a couple of months you might find yourself happily walking 1 hour at a stretch.
You can apply a similar approach to any form of activity, whether you are planning to go to the gym or reading more books.
2. Make small tweaks to your diet
Many people think the best way to lose weight is a radical diet. As you probably know from personal experience, diets rarely work. In the worst case they even lead to the infamous yo-yo effect.
We recommend making small and gradual changes instead.
For example: Start with one or two vegetarian/ vegan days a week to reduce the amount of meat instead of trying to stop it overnight.
Start adding more vegetables and greens to your plate, instead of forcing yourself to eat only salads. Replace ingredients with healthier options gradually. Joining challenges like Veganuary can also be a fun and motivating way to get started.
We are great fans of smoothies, as they are healthy, nutritious and super easy to make. All you need a good blender and a few easy recipes.
Other tweaks that can make a big difference over time:
- Cut down on processed foods
- Eat more home cooked meals
- Drink plenty of water
- Stick to regular meal times
- Gradually reduce your sugar intake
Try to make it fun! Look up recipes that are easy to make and tasty. There are plenty of blogs and channels where you can find inspiration.
3. Find an accountability buddy
One secret to success is accountability. If you struggle building habits alone, surround yourself with other people who have similar interests and goals.
The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% of completing a goal if you commit to another person.
And if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you've committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%!
Let's say you want to get fitter and have committed to walking daily. Make an appointment with one or more friends and walk together.
Alternatively pick someone you trust to be your accountability partner. Tell him or her when to expect an update from your progress. You could promise sending a photo from every walk you make or every visit to the gym.
Remember: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
- African Proverb.
4. Change your environment
It's difficult to make changes if you are always in the same environment. That's why thisarticlein Psychology Today argues: Habits are the brain’s way of simplifying the movements required to achieve a given result, so using the environment to increase friction really is the best way to influence your own behaviour.
Sometimes that might mean just changing the room, but oftentimes the best effect is achieved by going outside.
Here at AAVALABS we love spending time in nature, and in our experience it's one of the best places to destress and to get into different thoughts.
There is somefascinating research on the positive impact of Shinrin-yoku (= forest bathing). The study by Japanese researchers concludes:
The results of studies performed on the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku show that forest environments could lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings.
Make it a habit to spend time in the outdoors or even just in your local park. If this is something you've not done before, try the tips above and see what happens!
Healthy habits can be fun!
We are convinced that implementing healthy habits is worth the effort. While every habit change requires a decision and commitment, try to make it as easy and fun as possible.
If you hate jogging that might not be the best choice for starting your new fitness regime. Instead, pick something that you absolutely love: dancing, skating or cycling - you name it.
Then set your first mini goal. Make it achievable and think of ways to integrate it into your daily routine. And last but not least: Surround yourself with supportive friends and buddies. That will make it much easier to follow through.
A goal properly set is halfway reached.” —Zig Ziglar