Every new year, many of us burst into January like a bunch of resolution health warriors, brandishing our kale and kombucha, proclaiming, “No more sugar!”, “No more drinking!”,”I will exercise every day!” But who are we kidding? We’re only human. It’s going to take more than a to-do list to break bad habits.
So what do you do when you find your hand reaching all zombie-like for a slice of pizza or some leftover Christmas chocolate just because you need some comfort food on a Monday? Here are some tips for keeping your cool and staying on track when temptation strikes.
1. Change your scene
Old habits are triggered by the familiar. So when you get home at the end of the day, your body and brain will naturally run down the track of “this is what I do to relax.” (Especially if you’ve been over indulging during the holiday break!) If your winding down routine historically involves wolfing down a bag of Doritos with a side of Netflix, you may want to have a rethink.
Change up your scene by shifting your usual “coming home” routine. Get off the Skytrain a stop or two early and get to the gym instead of making lofty goals of making it to that 6 am Soul Cycle class. Choose to take an evening walk (weather permitting!), or create a new, healthier routine for when you get home that will derail old habits, like:
- Drink a glass of water
- Sit for a five-minute meditation
- Do three stretches
You can also help yourself out by literally changing your environment. Move some stuff around in your space so that your home feels like a different area. Worst case scenario? If you get home and you feel like you’re falling down the rabbit hole, turn around again and go right back out! With cool things happening in the city, let experiences tempt you more than some carb-loaded meal.
2. Derail your old temptations
‘Mac and cheese would be so good right now.” When you notice those little temptation bubbles percolating up, jump in immediately and put a firm hand on them. “You’re just a wimpy temptation thought, and I don’t have to believe you. I’ve got bigger priorities.” Replace the temptation thought immediately with a vision of how satisfied you will be with yourself when you complete your resolution.
The longer we let those pernicious temptation thoughts swim around, the more “real” they start to seem. By nipping them in the bud, you create mental space to make the choice that really serves you.
3. Connect to your values
Changing habits is hard! Billion-dollar industries have been built upon this challenge. So to help us shore up our willpower for change, it’s helpful to connect to the most emotionally charged value that your new habits will support.
For some of us, eating better feels really good when we consider its impact on our health and longevity. For others, we feel awesome about our diet when we contemplate how we want to look in that swimming suit come summer. What really gets you fired up for making this change? Tuck a little phrase or a picture that represents your value into your wallet or stick it on your fridge. Pull it out when you need a reminder.
4. Tell friends
Get a posse on your side. We function better within support groups, so embrace the opportunity to get a crew together to support your mutual goals. When we publicly declare our intention for a new habit, we have a better chance of success. Funny enough, it can be easier to uphold our goal for someone else than it is for ourselves. Make yourself a habit-change ringleader, and set a great example. Plus, lots of studios and gyms have guest passes and referral discounts, which can incentivize your buds to get on board.
5. Run the marathon, not the sprint
The best habits to change are the ones that we want to change for life rather than short-term. Rather than going on a temporary “diet,” instead choose to be someone who takes care of their health because you want to live a long and vibrant life. When we are in it for the long haul, a few lapses here and there isn’t a problem.
Have integrity in your habit change, but give yourself some freedom to be flexible. Aim for 85% success rate with your habit and you’ll be making changes that are sustainable. In other words, get salad with your burger at least some of the time!
Happy new year! You can do it!