As the days tick over and we see out the first few weeks of 2019, a crazy amount of New Year’s resolutions have already morphed into dissolutions. The prospect of ‘losing weight’, ‘eating healthy’, ‘to quit drinking’, or ‘exercise more’ are ridiculous resolutions without firm strategies at the helm.
I discovered long ago I’m an anti-resolutionist (Is there such a word?). Yep, no new year’s resolutions around here. I prefer to bundle up a whole heap of small, positive behaviours that help maintain a consistent level of goodness throughout the year.
The problem I find with creating specific goals is that they give us an endpoint. I’m sure you all know the feeling of post goal comedown. It nearly falls into the depression category or heavy cloud that leaves us without direction or purpose (especially if the intended goal wasn’t met). Having an endpoint is desired in some cases (perhaps you’re training for a marathon or have a uni degree to complete) but, when we’re talking about well-being, health and everyday fitness wouldn’t it be nice to have a system in place to keep this trickling over without yo-yo diets or sporadic gym attendance?
New Year’s resolutions are about trying to break habits, which is hard, but certainly not impossible. We’re led to believe we need to rely on willpower (which, if you’re a regular you will know this isn’t true). The very moment the holidays are over, life returns to normal and undealt with stress, tiredness and constant decision-making enters the picture – Groan, failure presents itself and ‘I can’t change’ mentality repeats itself on autoplay.
Feeling trapped by a behaviour can leave us without hope, but the good news is it’s possible to break free, NOT by learning new habits but knowing what you want.
A certain level of self-control is necessary to do anything that’s new. This takes time, patience and persistence. The more a path is worn, the higher chance of success it has to leave an imprint and take form. We are neurologically hard-wired to want a return to default (even if it’s not what we know IS best). So to make a new behaviour impressionable for it to be the new default we need to look at the situation as an opportunity to learn what can be done to create a different outcome in the future. Act as your own super sleuth and search for clues that may have been bought on by a trigger, an event, an unrealistic routine? Establish a pattern of evidence for your own brain to observe, and plan for the future to intervene and change the behaviour before it has a chance to manifest. Think of it as rewiring your brain.
3 things to do to now instigate habit change
- Pay attention
Mindfulness is so 2018, but call it what you want – bringing awareness, in the moment, being present etc. but nothing is going to change until you face your current situation. Do you eat without paying attention because it’s a way of not admitting you’re eating a particular food? Perhaps by eating alone or bingeing doesn’t count if no one can see you? These are simple examples of how being in the moment can help deal with what action is on repeat.
- Find something you love and the rest will follow
It is important it is to find something you enjoy doing rather than doing something because you feel you have to. Recent studies show that when a new behaviour is started, certain areas of the brain light up. To keep this area lit up and firing (which helps create new neural pathways) there needs to be a reward. The feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin keep us coming back for more and the likelihood that it will form into a new habit
- Don’t overcomplicate things
Keep things simple. Overthinking leads to paralysis by analysis and with so much information in society today, it’s so easy to get caught up in everyone else’s business. Remember what worked for one person is not going to work for another, take your personal values and beliefs into account and use your own instinct for what is right for you.
If you’re struggling with creating change, remove temptations and we’re instantly removing the need for willpower. Reign things back and keep it simple for a couple of weeks. It will beat any crazy diet out there…