Now That You’ve Quit Your New Year’s Resolution
January 19 was a big day. According to research conducted by Strava fitness app, most people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions by January 19. The study, conducted last year, tracked over 800 million user activities.
So that’s about two-and-half weeks into the year—not a very long time to commit to a big goal. The problem with most New Year’s resolutions is they are too big and too unrealistic. They usually involve changes that disrupt our normal lifestyles too much.
Socrates once said, “Excessive action in one direction usually sets up a reaction in the opposite direction.” That’s often the case with those who resolve to go on a diet or lose weight in the new year—two-thirds of people who go on a diet gain back more than they lost.
At Exercise Inc we’ve learned that making small changes and sticking to them over a long period of time can lead to lasting success in improving your health or losing weight. Achieving success at anything in life requires developing the right habits.
In 2006, a Duke University researcher found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actually decisions, but habits. They start as simple deliberate choices. One day you pull into Starbucks on your way to work: then three months later, without even realizing it, you’re stopping at Starbucks every day. Actions like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or driving to work are behaviors you perform every day without even thinking. Habits (good or bad) are decisions that become automatic behavior over time.
While every habit in your life means relatively little on its own, over time, each habit—the meals you order, the way you speak to your spouse, whether you save or spend, how often you exercise, and the way you organize your thoughts—significantly impacts your health, productivity, financial security, and happiness. Habits define who you are.
The book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, outlines much of the recent research on habits. Duhigg says habits emerge because the brain constantly looks for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will convert almost any routine into a habit because habits allow our minds to relax. The problem with most New Year’s resolutions is they require too much work. No matter how much willpower you have, you usually give up.
At Exercise Inc we help our clients live healthy, happy lives by coaching them to adopt a few simple habits they can live with for life.
In The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains how habits work in our brain. More importantly, he reveals the process by which a habit becomes a habit. By using what he calls a Habit Loop, we can take control of the habits in our lives.
The Habit Loop acts sort of like a computer program consisting of three parts:
- According to Duhigg, a cue is “a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.” An example could be boredom, which might trigger you to eat a piece of chocolate.
- The routine is the activity that you perform almost automatically after you encounter a cue. A routine can be physical, mental, or emotional. An example is eating lunch when the clock strikes 12:00 every day, whether you feel hungry or not.
- The reward is what helps your brain figure out if a particular loop is worth remembering for the future. A reward can be anything, such as the feeling you get after a good cup of coffee or the totally different feeling you get after a great workout.
As we encounter this three-part loop over and over again, the process slowly becomes automatic. A habit really becomes established in your brain when the Cue and the Reward work together, forming powerful neurological cravings that compel you to perform the routine.
You can dramatically change your health and happiness over the next year by setting up a few habit loops to help you adopt some of our Simple 9© habits. Here are a few examples.
Let’s say you want to start the habit of drinking two cups of water first thing in the morning.
- Set a 16-ounce cup on your kitchen counter before you go to bed at night.
- Drink 16-onces of water as soon as you wake up.
- Have a cup of coffee after you drink your water.
What if you want to stop eating every night at 7:00 pm?
- Brush your teeth every night at 7:00 pm.
- Don’t eat anything after you brush your teeth.
- Have your favorite healthy snack as soon as you wake up.
Another great habit to start—walking 30 minutes every night after dinner.
- Put your walking shoes on as soon as you clean up after dinner.
- Walk 30 minutes.
- Allow yourself to spend 20 minutes on social media.
These are just a few examples of how you could use Habit Loops to help you make some lasting positive changes to your life in 2022. Of course, you will choose different cues and rewards that work for you rather than what I listed above. But the great habits you need to adopt are just about the same for everyone.
Have patience when you try to start new habits. If you miss a day, don’t give up. Remember it takes about 66 days on average to start a new habit. It takes a lifetime to stick to a new habit.