Every January, the New Year arrives with a renewed commitment to exercising, eating better, losing weight, saving money, and more. These are typical “New Year’s Resolutions.” We all know that resolutions are destined to fail unless turned into habits. One report examining millions of uploaded exercise activities predicted that most people will give up on their resolutions by January 19th, known as “Quitter’s Day.” Change your habits in 2022 if you want to take charge of your health.
Research suggests that people who successfully control their health behaviors with less effort rely on good habits. This is especially true if their good habits align with their long-term goals. For example, achieving a massive goal is generally more challenging than a small one. However, the difficulty of the goal isn’t as significant as the habits you develop to achieve that goal. So, how do we form good habits? Here are some tips from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear
How to Change Your Habits
Build identity-based habits.
This involves changing how you look at yourself and shifting the belief behind the behavior. With identity-based habits, you become the person you want to be.
Here are a few examples.
- Do you want a cigarette?” – Say “I’m not a smoker” vs. “I’m trying to quit.”
- The goal is not to read a book but to become a regular reader.
- The goal is not to lose 30 lbs. but to become someone who could do that.
Make a Habit Scorecard
Make a “habit scorecard” to become aware of your habits. To do this, go through your typical day and rate your habits as good (+), bad (-), or neutral (=).
- Wake up (=)
- Say 3 things I’m grateful for (+)
- Drink a glass of water (+)
- Take my dog out. (=)
- Meditate for 15 minutes. (+)
- Check my e-mail. (-)
- Make coffee. (-)
- Watch 10 minutes of the news . . . (-)
- Exercise (+)
Then, ask yourself about these habits with this question, “Does this behavior help me to become the person I want to be?”
Create an Implementation Intention
Create an “Implementation Intention.” Those who make a specific plan are more successful. Start with just one intention. Use this format and fill in the blanks: I will __________ (behavior) at __________ (time) in __________ (location)
- I will meditate for 10 minutes at 6:00 a.m. in my dining room chair.
- I will eat an apple for my snack at 10:00 a.m. at my workspace.
- I will walk around for 10 minutes after dinner in my neighborhood.
Use Habit Stacking to Change Your Habits
“Habit Stacking” means pairing a new habit with one that is already working. Use this format and fill in the blanks: After __________ (behavior), I will __________ (new habit)
- After I take the dog out first thing in the morning, I will meditate for 10 minutes
- After my regular workout 3 x a week, I will do two sets of push-ups
- After getting up in the morning, I will drink a glass of water with lemon.
Create an Environment for Success
Design your environment for success. Make the cues of your good habits obvious; make the cues of your bad habits invisible (it’s easier to avoid temptation rather than try to resist it). Examples:
- Don’t buy food that does not support your health goals (remove the cue).
- Put your workout clothes in a pile, ready to go each morning.
As you strive to create healthy and lasting habits, remember habits are formed on frequency rather than time. It can take 18 to 254 days to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Repetition is the key. Try to anticipate how many repetitions of your new habit are needed to make it automatic, then implement strategies to keep the positive behavior going.
With any new habits, consistency is essential. Just keep going, and you’ll achieve the repetitions needed for your new habit to become effortlessly regular. Change your habits to take charge of your health in 2022.