Goal Setting and Maintaining Healthy Habits

New Year’s resolutions are a common way we set new intentions; How we will become more fit, more organized, less stressed, or whatever your resolution is to make you a “better” person in 2022. Now that February is here, you may have realized that you forgot about your New Year’s resolution sometime in January and are still just as stressed as you were last year. Luckily, we have some tips and tricks for maintaining (or even just starting) your goals.

Habit Audit

If you are someone who is not particularly into creating resolutions, it does not have to be as heavy and scary as it may seem. To start the process of creating a resolution, a good first step is to start with a pen and paper! Write down everything that you do during an average day. Yes, I mean everything, from opening your eyes and picking up your phone, to brushing your teeth, to putting on your left sock, to exercising, to… well you get the point. Write down everything! Step 2: After you have written down what you do everyday, go back to the beginning and mark each task as positive or negative. Positive tasks contribute to your daily life, and negative tasks take away from that. After your daily schedule is marked up with plus and minus signs… it’s time to analyze! When doing this, don’t forget to give yourself some credit because we all have negative habits. We are all different and starting at various points; The only thing to acknowledge is that you are working on self-growth.

Evaluation

What are some negative tasks that you notice? What are the positive tasks? Don’t forget to acknowledge the strengths and positive aspects you bring to your life each day. With that acknowledgment, it may bring up realizations about negative tasks within your day that you want to cut out. Now, how do you get rid of these negative habits and actually begin to reach your goals? It is hard for most people to quit any habit cold turkey, whether it is technology, smoking, junk-food eating, etc. so it is smart to come up with a game plan to cut it out completely. 

Visualize Success

A good first step to cutting out a bad habit and creating a strong goal is to write down how you picture your life to be different after this change. If your goal is to stop going on your phone first thing in the morning, picture yourself waking up, having a relaxing morning routine, getting ready for the day without looking at your phone. Envision what you can do with that peaceful time before the emails or distractions start. When you do look at your phone, do so to fulfill a purpose, not just out of habit. Picturing how your life will be better on a daily basis from this one change will create motivation for making it a reality. Focus on why you are making this change and how it will feel. This isn’t to say that your life will turn into this perfect routine you had imagined at first, but these positive thoughts will manifest in each day you complete your resolution. The more you speak and write about it, the more likely it will manifest itself into existence.  

Track Your Progress and Reactions

Keeping a log or journal throughout your resolution process will be a great way to keep track of your success with not only completion of tasks, but with your emotions throughout the process as well. Are you becoming happier and less anxious throughout this process? How does your resolution track make you feel? One thing to keep in mind throughout this is to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. If your resolution is too difficult to keep up with and is causing you more stress in your life, it is completely okay to put it on pause, or alter it to fit your needs. The only thing that matters is your well-being in the process of creating and maintaining resolutions. Writing down your thoughts and progress a few times a week will allow you to keep track of your success and will help to declutter your mind. If you have started implementing a New Year’s resolution, reflect on the progress that you have made and reframe your goal to ensure you can keep the momentum going. 

Pace Yourself

Another way to keep yourself on track of your resolutions is to not over-commit. This may seem counterintuitive to not jump into a goal that you have with full force, however this will allow you to work a new habit into your routine. Habits don’t appear overnight and stick to you, they are worked into your routine throughout time. Therefore, it is important to gradually settle into a new habit. One example is stretching; If your goal for the new year is to become more flexible, you don’t want to try a split your first day and get hurt. To implement stretching, it would be smart to start with 5 minutes for the first week. After you are used to and comfortable with this time, you can start stretching for 10 minutes, then the week after you are at 15 minutes, and so on. By the time March comes around, you are stretching for 30 minutes a day with ease, and not only that, it is an enjoyable and positive practice for you! Making sure you introduce goals gradually into your routine is crucial to not overextending yourself and ending up quitting all together. 

Stack Habits

Habit Stacking is helpful concept that makes building new habits more achievable.  Discussed in the book Atomic Habits, habit stacking involves linking the habit you want to add, to a positive/neutral habit you already do.  A good example is adding a new habit to right after brushing your teeth. Since brushing our teeth is something ingrained that we do every day, it can be easy to pair something with this habit. It could be taking vitamins, stretching, or tidying your space, but when you pair a new behavior with an existing one, it makes it easier to maintain. Another great example is to exercise during your favorite show.  If you wind down with Netflix every night, set up your viewing to do so from a yoga mat instead of the couch. Do crunches, leg lifts or squats for 15 minutes of the show. You’ll appreciate the couch time that much more and stack your workout routine onto something you already look forward to doing.

Treat Yo’ Self

The final, and one of the most important tips for maintaining resolutions is to reward yourself. You are not a robot. It can be challenging to stick to a goal and work hard, so if that is the case for you, make sure you are giving yourself a reward every now and then. You don’t want to get into the habit of rewarding yourself every time you complete your goal or else it might feel as if the goal is a chore, rather than a habit you want to imbed in your daily routine. However, you want to give yourself a pat on the back for the strength it takes to work for and reach a goal. One tip, though, is to make sure your reward is not counterintuitive to your goal- a dessert after each workout might not be smart. A better reward for the resolution of working out could be to plan a trip where you can show off your fit body that you have been working so hard for. More rewards could be calling a long-distance friend to chat, going on a leisurely walk, or reading a book in your newly cleaned space; There are endless options for rewarding yourself, just remember to make it a positive reward that will not backtrack your success. 

Enjoy The Journey

It is not easy for anyone to implement new habits and structure to their routines, at any time of the year… especially when it might be cold and dark by the time you finish work. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are just beginning your goals in February, or March; everyone starts somewhere different and ends up somewhere different. Remember to go easy on yourself and ease into the process of building healthy habits gradually. Taking care of your mental health throughout changes to your routine is important for both maintaining your goal and self-care. Writing down and keeping log throughout your process will be a great addition to your resolution and may bring about a second goal to begin! Have fun with the process of resolutions and remember that the only goal is to improve yourself, so put yourself first in this process. It doesn’t matter what month it is, it’s never too late to start.

 

By Emma Brodie