We normally realize when we are making bad choices. Those bad choices which can turn into bad habits are something we fall into because it’s just easier! It’s when we don’t have consequences that we normally continue down that road.
It’s easier to binge-watch Netflix all night than deal with the real world. It’s easier to buy a friend a gift card and say we did our best at Christmas shopping this year. It’s easier to eat late into the night instead of fighting your growling tummy that obviously wants Chinese food, cookies and a milkshake. And it’s easier to drink orange juice in the morning instead of brush your teeth (well, that one might just be me).
So why am I making you feel uncomfortable about recognizing those bad choices?! BECAUSE! Good choices can feel SO good... and just like those bad habits we’ve fallen into, we can choose to fall into good habits this New Year.
How?! Well let’s go back to binge-watching Netflix’s because that one really isn’t a choice is it? (Trick question). Our brain has a reward function that produces dopamine and makes us feel good! Like gambling or even falling in love increased dopamine is associated with motivation, reward, and goal-directed behavior and other behavioral addictions.
Which leads me to binging on Good Choices, Good Habits and a super healthy and happy 2020. How do we do it?
1. Start Small - with only 8% of people achieving their New Years Goals annually you have to wonder what people are doing wrong. Are they picking goals that are way out of reach? Probably not but they are probably hitting the ground running, exhausting themselves and giving up. So start small. If you want to run every day, start with a 5 minute run, and the next day make it a 6 minute run. Do 2 pushups and then the next do 3 pushups. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle and you need to build up that strength!
2. Get Hooked on Your Habit - This is something I’ve done for years with every new habit I start and that’s seeing my progress. How? It’s not like running for 5 minutes one day and 6 the next actually made me healthier. No, it’s knowing and keeping track of the fact that I started this habit. Take a calendar and put a check mark, a gold start or even the actual accomplishment on the calendar. Pretty soon you won’t want to miss a day. Seeing a blank square will not make you feel good but seeing a full month of stars… trust me the dopamine of accomplishment will start to sing.
3. Have Clear Intentions - Write down what your intentions are. “I want to exercise” versus “I’m going to run everyday” are very different. You don’t need to say why but you do need to state what you’re going to do. “I’m going to go to the gym,” versus “I’m going to lift weights 4 days a week so I can eventually start doing Parkour.” We all have to start somewhere. At least you know what you want!
4. Celebrate Your Small Wins - This is one of my favorites. When I was writing my first book, I got super unmotivated. I asked my husband for help and he said that if I finished my word count (500 words a day) that each week he’d give me $20. If I didn’t finish my goal that week, I’d pay him $20. Yes, we were celebrating weekly goals and it lightened up the mood and sometimes gave me that extra kick I needed to finish my goal (however I still owe him a lot of money ;) and there are other rewards that do not involve money). I did end up finishing that book and the next 4 books after that were way easier to complete. *That’s another secret, the first time is the hardest. If you accomplish one goal, it’s that much easier starting another one.
5. Design Your Environment - In many ways, your environment drives your behavior. Say it’s 11pm and you’ve just walked into the kitchen to see a plate of cookies on the counter. They are so easy to just grab and munch on! If you design your environment to not have cookies in it or even to just have those cookies in a place where you have to go grab a step stool in order to reach them, you’re having to put a lot more energy into getting them, so you probably won’t mindlessly grab a cookie. This extra time to think about your actions will normally allow you to go for the celery in the fridge instead. Or for example, if you’re trying to read more instead of watch TV. Put a book near the couch and put the remote out of arms reach. You’d be surprised how often we give into habits because we’ve made them so accessible.
6. Surround Yourself With Positive People - They say you’re a combination of the 5 people you’re closest to. At one point a few years ago, I had super negative boss and two friends who were very competitive and complained all the time. My husband started to notice my personality was changing. It was hard to admit it to myself but he was right. The people I was hanging out with were changing me! Studies have shown that the people around us has a surprisingly big impact on our behavior. One study showed that if you have a friend who becomes obese, your risk of obesity increases by 57 percent — even if your friend lives hundreds of miles away! Other research has shown that we tend to feel the same way, and adopt the same goals, as the people we spend the most time with.
So how do we increase our level of success? Pick good friends and people to surround yourself with.
Here is to you and the New Year. We know you can stay strong and complete your goals to be a stronger, healthier woman in the New Year!