Science-Backed Ways to Cement Habits
If you're trying to keep a New Year's resolution or just sustain a goal you set months ago, it might be tempting to rely on your willpower or motivation. But the real make-or-break for your resolutions can be found in another place - your habits. Why does it seem so easy to say, brush your teeth, yet it feels like pulling teeth to get up for a run? Because habits are automatic, which means you skip the mental strain of remembering and gathering the motivation. Luckily, the science of habit has done a lot of the hard work for us and nailed down some proven methods for turning this January's resolutions into next year's "I did its!"
Integrate it with an existing habit
Think of all the things you already do by habit in a day - turning off your alarm, brushing teeth, showering, pouring a cup of coffee. Use something you already do as a reminder to do your new habit. Maybe turning on the coffee maker is your reminder to sit down for a few minutes of meditation while it's brewing. Or your trip to the lunch room at work is a reminder to go outside for a quick walk.
If it feels overwhelming to commit to your goal, try starting with something that feels more achievable and practice making it a habit so that it's no longer a choice. Rather than saying you'll get in a great workout every day, maybe just set a goal to make it to that yoga class once a week or start even smaller and just commit to waking up and putting your gym shoes on each morning. I often just tell myself I have to show up at the gym. If I get there and I don't feel like running or lifting weights, I can stretch or bike. But more often than not, just by getting myself in the habit of showing up, I get in a workout without the mental struggle beforehand.
Celebrate Your Successes
Give yourself a mental high five the first time you remember to drink a glass of water, not just when you finish your final glass of the day or keep a habit for a month. Take a moment to appreciate a positive part of what you did. Our brains are wired to seek rewards, so if you can make your brain equate an action with a little jolt of pride, you're more likely to keep doing it. Just make sure you're not rewarding yourself with something that will undermine your goals. Rather than rewarding your healthy week of meals with a whole pizza, get yourself a new cookbook or enjoy a healthy meal out with friends.