I’ve heard it said that 21 days must pass before a new behavior becomes habit. Other sources cite 7 repetitions as the magic number before the transition from struggle to ingrained function occurs. Whatever the magic formula, changing habits is incredibly hard. With the best of intentions, we set goals for ourselves and attempt to reach them, yet get caught up in the business of our lives. Our goals fall to the wayside.
We recently passed through both the solar- and lunar-new years’ celebrations. I love that the Chinese new year comes about 6 weeks into the calendar year. It affords me a chance to reflect and re-evaluate the resolutions I made previously. This year’s lunar new year is the black water snake, which brings with it the elements of transformation, wisdom, renewal, introspection and changeability.
I suggest that we use this second new year and all it represents as a time to revisit our January goals and give them a tune-up. If you are not one for resolutions, the simple habit changing tips below may help whenever you decide you’d like to alter your behaviors.
Set your sites small. Tiny, in fact.
If exercise is your goal, instead of scouring your schedule for 30-60 minutes you can carve out for a run, going to the gym or taking a yoga class, try to find a 1-2 minute window in your day. Initially, even using this time to think about exercise is enough. After a few days, use this same 1-2 minute window to actually exercise. Get up from your desk and touch your toes, do a push-up, do a wall-sit, or walk to the bathroom and back to your desk. The point is to make the goal small enough that you absolutely can achieve it and build on that success as time goes by.
Build in external reminders.
It is funny to think how long I resisted transitioning to an electronic calendar because now I cannot imagine getting through my day without one. The convenient colors, reminders, ease of editing and the like make juggling the 10,000 things in my day possible. In fact, I am not sure I would get as much done as I do were it not for the external prompts I have built into my schedule. Use these reminders to schedule emails: pop-ups, chimes, jingles and dancing characters across your screen—all to signal that it is time to spend your 1-2 minutes thinking about exercise. This way, you are not responsible for remembering yet another thing.
Even better is scheduling your micro-new habit attached to an already established habit. We all have many rote things we do in our day. Why not take advantage of these and attach a new habit to an old one? I feed the dog and the cats twice a day. What new micro habit can I attach to these events that are already ingrained in my every day life?
Tell someone about your success every day. Whether it is an accountability partner, your coworker, your friend, your child or your spouse, celebrate your achievement(s) every day. Positive reinforcement goes much farther than either negative reinforcement or simply ignoring an event. And, if you were not able to follow through on your micro-goal, celebrate that as a learning experience and tell someone why you were unable to do so and how it might be done differently today. If you find that many days in a row are passing without a success, change your goal. Learn from what is not working so that you can make it work.
Find an accountability partner.
Who do you know that also struggles with making healthy changes in their lives? Can you share your goals together, even if you are not physically working on them together? The power of having someone else with whom you check-in, even if it is only to sync up for 60-second call, cannot be understated.
What new habits would you like to establish? What will be your first micro-goals to start on this new path? With whom will you share your success? How will you celebrate?
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Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors, who will help you develop customized health goals that you can achieve throughout the year.