The Secret to Developing New Habits and Sticking to Them!
New year is a great time of the year, I love everything about it, except for the part where you make resolutions , mostly because of my high incapability to keep them. Lets just say, If there was a record for failing to keep your resolutions every year in a row , I would have won it hands down.
I remember the last year of my resolution making, I made a resolutions to not make any more resolutions, that is how discouraged I was. Since childhood I have made and broken resolutions every year.
My resolutions were fairly simple, ranging from focusing on studying 6 hrs everyday to watching less tv to getting up early to eating a fruit everyday, sounds so simple but the catch lies in the word everyday.
I was amazed at people who seemed to knack these difficult traits with effortless ease. When I was in school, I was in awe of kids who came to school daily (no stomach aches!), finished their homework daily, who sat in the front row and gave the same attentive look in all classes daily and who wore such shiny shoes daily that it looked like they had spent the whole last night polishing them.
When I moved up to university level, my heroes were people who attended all lectures daily, who diligently submitted all their assignments and case studies regularly, who had the same food in the hostel mess daily and still never got bored of it (i do not remember eating that terrible excuse for food any week more than 3 days in a row) , who managed to keep their cupboards and shelves neatly organized and who ironed their clothes daily (mine on some days looked like I had slept in them!).
And heroes who could make their beds and still reach in time for the first lecture (while mine resembled like it had just been hit by a hurricane!).
Anyway, the long and short of the story is that I had problem with the word DAILY(if you noticed). The things that we do on a daily basis are called Habits so no prizes for guessing that anything that needed to be done daily or on a regular basis was a challenge for me…which meant it was hard for me to keep habits, good ones to be precise!
But there comes a motivating time in your life when you really can’t afford to do anything else but the right thing for eg. shedding weight becomes easy just before marriage, reaching office on time the 5th day ( after being noted as late by boss for last 4 days), eating healthy during pregnancy, getting up early because your toddler wants to play at 5 am (after you have slept at 2) …..this made me rethink of my abilities to cultivate good habits.
If I could do it once, I could do it again and maybe sustain it too. So I made a wish list of all the habits that I wanted to adopt and most importantly practice (everyday).
Here’s what my list looked like:
- Get up early (not because of baby but on your own!)
- Meditate (without dozing off in the middle)
- Eat healthy(fruits, veggies, fiber, protein etc)
- Spend time in outdoor activities (not exactly window shopping!)
- Read regularly(other than Archie comics!) And so on.
And to my surprise I could actually this time continue with the habits i adopted ( i am not done with the list yet, it is still work in progress!). I devised a simple rule for myself, I like to call it the 1-1-1 thumb rule and applied it religiously.
If you fall even partially in my category and want to adopt and stick to a few good habits, the below could come in handy.
1. Follow 1-1-1:
The first one stands for one habit, which means pick up one habit that you want to change at a time. Trying to make too many changes to your routine can lead to failure at all. The second one stand for once in a day, follow your habit once everyday…. if you are trying to keep fit, exercise everyday, do not miss days in between promising to come back later because later never comes.
If you want to eat healthy choose one meal to change instead of revamping your entire menu…changing dinner is the easiest and most advisable as your body needs less calories at night.
The third one stands for 1 one month. Follow this routine with the target of doing it for a month. Don’t aim for a lifetime or a year, start with the month (you will be surprised how your body and mind adopt the flow in a month and how after that you move on an autopilot mode.
That was the first and the most important rule. The other rules listed below are just to make sure you follow rule no 1.
2. Be Consistent:
This is one rule that cant be emphasized enough. It really is the most important.
3. Find Your Motivation:
Do not force yourself to do something that your mind terms boring or difficult instead practice your mind to think of it as a rewarding activity. Think of it this way, the next half an hour of jogging could change the way I look, the next healthy meal could increase my immunity and so on.
4. Make Room for the New Habit:
We usually pick up new habits without making any space for them in our daily lives. Which simply means that some of the old habits need to go before you start a new one. For eg you cannot wake up early if you are in the habit of watching tv late into the night everyday.
5. Set the Stage:
Make an environment around yourself for eg. If you are trying to pick up reading, make a small reading corner In your house which is nice and welcoming, if you are trying to stay off junk food, throw away all the chocolate, goodies and chip packets out of the kitchen(and I mean all!).
The idea is to reduce resistance and efforts and make the initial phase as simple as possible, the simpler it is for you to do it , the more easily you can adapt to it!
6. Make It Fun:
The fun part is very important as this is what will make you come back everyday, So if you are trying to lose weight but hate going to the gym or exercising, go for a run instead in the fresh outdoors, play a game or just simply dance to your favorite music.
7. Make Calendar Entries:
Mark days when you could stick to the habit. and when you could not and hang it somewhere you can see it everyday. It will help you keep yourself on track
8. Do Not Miss:
Whatever happens do not miss practicing your habit more than 2 times in a row. You will find it difficult to come back if it is more than that. One of the main reasons people get discouraged and give up in the middle trying to stick to good habits is being absent for it for a long period.
9. Celebrate Your Milestones:
If one month is the target one week could be a milestone. If you avoided junk food for a week celebrate your success, congratulate your self , pat your back and tell your self what a swell job you did. It keeps you going!
10. Have a Whistle Blower:
Inform a family member, a friend or anybody close to you and ask them to raise an alert for you if they find you slipping.
Good luck with revamping your habits————it really isn’t all that difficult!