It is a couple of months after New Years… some of us are right on track with our resolutions, and some of us may be slowly tapering away or not applying our feel-good plans to our lives at all.
For the most part, our New Years Resolutions are not permanent. The only time I have found success in a resolution and stuck to it, was when I decided to kick my nasty nine-year smoking habit three years ago. When I made this change I had attempted to quit smoking 2 times before, and with that goal in mind for over two years – made up my mind that this would be my resolution for 2015. I had mentally prepared so that it was easier to stick to when January 1st rolled around.
I have often wondered why this particular time I made a complete lifestyle change with my resolution, and every other year I had fallen short. It wasn’t the new year that made me quit, it was preparing and easing into a new lifestyle that ultimately helped me make a permanent change.
I didn’t need resolve, I needed routine. I proved this to myself once again after 9-months of being smoke free, I trained to race in a half-marathon.
Whether quitting smoking, starting a new exercise routine, or changing your eating habits entirely, we need to prepare ourselves for change. We can start by creating a deadline of when we want that change to ultimately begin and making small improvements in the meantime. Our goal is the day of change, rather than somewhere in the distant future where we have already lost all of our weight, or have been a non-smoker for x- amount of years. It is important to have a long-term goal, but it can be helpful to start with short-term goals that will add up to the big one. It is more realistic, these goals are quicker to attain, and leaves less room to feel discouraged before we even start.
When attempting to incorporate new healthy habits, or remove unhealthy, unwanted habits, we must:
- Mentally prepare
- Physically prepare
- Make small changes slowly before our deadline date
For example, if our goal was to improve our eating habits:
- Week 1 and 2 – Reflect
- Think of the types of healthy foods you like, research different recipes, read magazines, and get a general sense of how and why you would like to eat healthier.
- Week 3 – Collect
- Start taking junk food out of your house, create a list on your phone of healthy foods that you enjoy, begin collecting recipes.
- Week 4 – Take Action
- If you eat well during the day but your biggest source of “unhealthy eating” is dinner time, ensure you have a healthy meal planned for 2 nights of the week. Increase that number over the weeks until you have made it a part of your routine. You will be able to create your schedule with the time necessary to cook your meals, or you have healthy prepared meals on hand such as Balanced Chef meals.
Making changes slowly will be less overwhelming and help create a more positive association with the change – rather than making drastic changes suddenly and setting yourself up for failure.
When setbacks do happen – (you skip a week at the gym, indulge more than you should, or have that cigarette you’ve been avoiding for months) go easy on yourself. Don’t ruminate about it, beat yourself up or engage in negative self-talk. Everyone who has made a significant positive change in their lives has had varying struggles. The important part is getting your head back in the game and engaging in baby steps once again.
When it comes time to make our big change, it will be easier to incorporate into our lives and the change will become part of our routine.