Most of us who made New Year’s resolutions have probably left them by the wayside by now. You might be wondering why you could not keep up that determination to go to the gym five days a week or read to your kids four days a week – and you are beating yourself up over it.
There are many reasons. Some are because of thousands of years of programming by evolution to survive in a completely different kind of environment from what we live in now. Keep reading to learn some things you can do to help make healthy habits stick.
First, choosing a “significant” start date does matter. Turns out we are more optimistic about being able to achieve goals when started on a date that feels like you are getting a fresh start; it’s why you made a New Year’s resolution in the first place.
So before you reboot your resolution, look at a calendar and find a date that stands out: the first day of spring, your birthday, the first day of Lent, the first day of Daylight Savings Time, National Read Across America Day.
Use temptation bundling to keep doing the new habit. It can help motivate you to do the thing you might feel too tired or overwhelmed to do but that you want to do more often.
Let’s say you want to keep up with household chores more regularly. The first thing you do is find a podcast or audiobook that you enjoy, maybe even one that you consider a guilty pleasure. Once you have picked it, make yourself a rule: You can only listen to it when you’re doing a chore.
Temptation bundling can work for all kinds of things. Maybe only have your favorite latte when you are doing paperwork you particularly dread, or treat yourself to a manicure when you have to read something boring. You get the idea.
For something you want to do a few times a week, like yoga, get yourself a physical calendar and hang it somewhere you see it every day. Any day you do yoga, even just a 10-minute session, write “yoga” on the calendar in a bright color. Whenever you look at the calendar, congratulate yourself for working toward your long-term goal.
Experiencing gratitude every day improves your long-term outlook on life and makes it easier to forgo instant gratification (watching television on the sofa) and pursue your long-term goals (going for a walk five days a week).
Nurture gratitude in your daily life to help you achieve your future goals, persevere in the face of adversity and stop sabotaging your future self. Take a few minutes every day to think about what has happened that day that makes you grateful.
It could be as small as getting a good parking spot when you went to the grocery store, someone at work offering to help you with a project or seeing the first crocus of spring.
My last bit of advice to make healthy habits stick? Get enough sleep. Feeling tired all the time is not normal, and chronic sleep deprivation adversely affects you mentally and physically and makes you feel crummy.
When you feel crummy, all you can think about is feeling better right now, which makes it easier to put off achieving your long-term goal.
Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.
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