How to Make Your Resolutions Habits

As if deciding what to resolve isn’t enough of a challenge, you are also tasked with making a plan to help you keep your New Years Resolution. It’s no wonder why so many people give up by mid-January!

Need a little help? Don’t go it alone—take these tips from the gurus of habit formation to help you make your resolution   stick for the whole year (and beyond).

What Are Habits?

Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. Behavioral patterns that you repeat frequently form strong neural pathways. Think back to when you first learned to drive a car; when you began, you had to focus attentively to each part of the process: the pedals, the mirrors, how far to turn the steering wheels, and how close you were to traffic around you. After some time, you became able to drive without needing to focus your attention—driving became a habit.

The good news: Through repetition, it’s possible to form and maintain new habits in much the same way driving a car becomes habituated. Habit expert Charles Duhigg explains that habits cannot be eradicated but instead they need to be replaced with new habits. His method is to use a cue-routine-reward. Every action you have follows this pattern. Traditional wisdom describes this as the circle of karma (action), samskara (memory), and vasana (desire).

Here’s an example. Eating fresh-baked cookies creates a memory for me. It’s sweet and comforting, and perhaps it reminds me of childhood. When I feel out of sorts or miss my family, I remember that I can get this from cookies. The desire for some cookies acts as temporary relief from stress or fatigue, so I choose the action of eating cookies again. In order to successfully kick the cookie habit, it could be replaced by a quick phone call to mom.

How can you shake up your patterns ?

Learn What Type of Habit Formation Works Best for Your Resolution

Once you have noticed your pattern or decided on a new habit to form, you need to make a plan that will work consistently until that new routine becomes a habit. Some people edge their way into a resolutionwhere others jump in fully from day one. Neither method is better but by matching a method with your goal, you will help yourself stick to it. Try these methods:

  • Moderation: Sometimes setting a goal to moderate a behavior feels more attainable. An example would be to introduce meatless weekdays rather than a full-time vegan diet.
  • Abstain: For some habits, choosing to abstain entirely makes it easier. If you want to cut out sugar, choosing to “eat less sugar” is not measureable or easy to track. This makes a habit harder to form. With a goal of total abstinence, it’s easy to see if you are successful.
  • Scheduling: Set a reminder on your phone that tells you when and where. This means your resolution is a priority; it’s in your calendar. What you schedule tends to get done.
  • Make it Easy: The simpler you make it, the better. If you want to work out, join the most convenient gym. If it is close to work or home, you are more likely to get there than if you have to drive across town. If you want to cut out carbs, don’t have carbs in the house.
  • Don’t Let Perfect Keep You from the Perfectly Good: Sometimes the frustration of not being 100 percent successful may keep you from continuing. Don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day or break your diet. Recognize that a little of something good is better than none at all.

Consider What Type of Habit Former You Are

Gretchen Rubin, an author who studied habit formation extensively prior to launching her book, Better Than Before, has divided personalities into four types (or tendencies as she calls them).

  1. Questioners require research. They’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense. One of the challenges of being a questioner is that you can get stuck in the analysis paralysis stage of habit forming; you never begin because you can’t decide if and how to proceed. Your motto should be Just do It!
  2. Upholders are equally strong at creating and sticking to habits that are both intrinsically and externally motivated. They can lose 5 lbs. with ease if their doctor tells them to. If they decide they want to meditate every morning, they just do it. What upholders need to remember is that others don’t form habits with the same ability they do. Upholders can be rigid.
  3. Obligers are great if they have external accountability but lack discipline to hold themselves accountable intrinsically. They often put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own and they need to use accountability when trying to stick to a resolution.
  4. Rebels, not surprisingly, don’t like to be contained (even by rules they make for themselves). If you are a rebel you resist all expectations, outer and inner alike, and do best when resolutions aren’t worded rigidly.

Focus on What You Want

Finally, make sure your resolution is moving you toward something you want and not away from something you don’t want. Although these two are very similar, most people are more successful at getting something than they are at giving something up.

According to neuroscientist and mindset coach Shonté Jovan Taylor, “negative habits must be replaced by desirable habits for them to lose their power over your mind. Thus, negative mental pathways are no longer fueled and begin to lose their neural connections.” Phrase your resolution using language that uses positive words. Instead of saying, “Stop wasting time on social media” try saying, “Enjoy social media for 5 minutes three times a day.” Taylor also says that “strong emotions help to establish mental habits quickly and strongly because habit formation and the emotional circuitries are highly linked.” Knowing that your emotional state affects your success at keeping your resolution will remind you to stay positive, to celebrate the little milestones along the way, and to keep a resilient mindset.

Warm Up Your Muscles

With your legs crossed or the bottoms of your feet touching, begin to circle your torso around and around. Allow your movement to be free and organic. Your shoulders can move and your head and neck can join in. Feel your hips warming and your low back relaxing.

New Year’s Note: This free form movement gets the creative juices flowing, frees up emotions, and is a gentle reminder to go with the flow this year.

Open Your Hips

Low Lunge Pose

Step your right foot forward, lower your left knee down, and shift your hips forward into a deep, low lunge. Reach your arms out to the sides or upwards for Anjaneyasana, Low Lunge. Stay for three to five breaths.

New Year’s Note: This pose is a reminder to stay stable and connected to the earth while you express receptivity to new beginnings with open, up-turned palms.

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