New Year’s Resolution: Why Changing Habits Is So Hard

New Year for New Healthy 2021.  Fresh vegetable salad and healthy food for sport equipment for women diet slimming weight loss background.

It’s that time of year…#NewYearNewMe. The gyms are crowded, the produce aisle is busier, and New Year’s resolutions are in full force.

But will they stick?

Depending on the source, somewhere between 81% and 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

That means 8 or 9 times out of 10, you’re more likely to fall back into your old habits and patterns than you are to stick with a new behavior.

Here’s the problem: New Year’s resolutions involve habits, either forming new beneficial habits or quitting bad habits, and habits are complicated.

“Habits aren’t just there, but you get them by repetition and reinforcement,” explains Dr. Nicole Calakos, M.D., Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. “The repetition part is obvious because a habit means regularly doing something, and the more you do it, the more conditions are ripe that will make you prone to have a habit. The second is reinforcement. In other words, is the outcome good? Does it help you get about your business? Is it rewarding?”

All hope is not lost. You ARE capable of creating the changes in your life that you want to make. 

Here are a few tips to help you get started!

Understand your WHY

Most habit changes don’t work because people are going in the wrong direction.

How often have you tried setting a resolution by focusing on the outcomes you want (e.g. lose 5 pounds) or the process you want to take (e.g. go to the gym every day) instead of focusing on the reasons WHY this change matters to you on a deeper level? 

If you just set a goal to exercise or read more because they seem like good habits, you’re far less likely to actually follow through.

The most effective way to change your habits is to start by focusing not on what you want to achieve, but instead on why this habit matters to you and the type of person you want to become.

Once you have a clear vision of why you want to make this change and who you want to become in the process, then you can figure out the new habits you want to create — or which old habits you want to break — in order to reinforce that identity.

Start small

Starting is the hardest part.

New Year's Resolution to get healthy.

It takes a lot of motivation to head to the gym for a workout after an exhausting day at work, but once you begin the workout, it doesn’t take nearly as much willpower to finish.

Make the starting easier, and you’re more likely to follow through! 

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, suggests, “Start with a behavior that is so small it seems easy and reasonable to do it each day.

Want to do 50 pushups per day? Start with something easy like 5 or 10.

Wish you would read more books. Start by reading two pages every night.

Want to finally start meditating? Meditate for one minute each morning. After a month, you can move up to two minutes.”

Don’t give up after a slip-up

So many people give up a habit change after “messing up” just one time.

Missing a workout or eating a cupcake doesn’t mean you’ve ruined your chances of making the change you want. It means you’re a human.

Remember — changing habits is hard. Be gentle with yourself. And try again tomorrow.

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If you‘re having a hard time making the changes you want to see in your life, we’re here to help.

With regular counseling sessions, our professional, licensed behavioral health providers are here to help you cope with trauma, manage anxiety and depression, and help you establish internal healing so that you can live the life you’ve always wanted to.
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