2019 is just around the corner, and we are all starting to think about New Year’s resolutions. Quit smoking, exercise more, lose weight, learn more, spend time with friends or family – these are some of the most common things people wish to change their lives. Unfortunately, at the same time, these are the most commonly broken promises we make to ourselves. (1)
If you strip off all of the specific names you give to your goals, it all comes down to one thing – you aim to change your habits. Get rid of the old, bad ones and form new, healthy ones instead. This sounds like a solid plan, but it is harder than we expect. It takes much effort, and it is no surprise that so many people give up their New Year’s resolutions.
Why does this happen?
We often make a big, ambitious and abstract resolutions, without an actual action plan. Science tells us that “dreaming big” is excellent because it gives us strength and willpower to keep executing our day-to-day tasks, which often seem mundane and do not result in quick nor dramatic changes. However, we do have to invest that necessary, minimum amount effort each day, if we want to get to the bigger goal. The key is to make your daily tasks approachable. (2)
Another mistake we make when it comes to our new year’s resolution is fantasizing. We like to imagine ourselves skinnier, happier or wealthier. Researchers from UCLA found that fantasizing about our goals will do us no good. What helps us form new habits is visualizing the process of carrying on the necessary steps. For example, if you want to lose weight, you should not imagine how great you would look with few pounds off, but imagine yourself exercising or dieting. This simple cognitive act will focus your attention on the needed steps and reduce anxiety at the same time. (3)
So, if we take these scientific findings into account, along with our knowledge in the field of the psychology of change, what would be the good New Year’s resolutions, ones we will stick with?
The list of 19 ‘Sticky' habit-creation methods
As an answer to this question, we will offer you a list of eighteen habit changing resolutions that are achievable, actionable and have a potential to improve your well-being drastically. Our recommendation? Pick one or two. Start small and build on that.
1. Take responsibility
Achieving your goals is much harder when you believe you are not in control of your destiny. The fact is, you are responsible for your feelings, actions, and thoughts. Take responsibility for your life, and everything else will go smoother. Just remind yourself every morning and every night that you are responsible for all of the things mentioned above. This won’t take more than a minute, yet it will create a solid base for the success of all of the other resolutions.
2. Become a pro goal setter
Dream big, but create actionable daily tasks. Think of every New Year’s resolution you’ve made and make it into a plan. What is the bare minimum you have to do every day to make progress toward your goal? How will you recognize you are progressing? What are potential setbacks and distractions? How will you deal with them? Predict, plan and work on it, step by step. Revise your plan every day. Need some help with this? Any of our 30-day premium challenge series will help you do this, but right now our 30 Days of Health Challenge is especially geared to help you with this!
3. Write things down
If you want to achieve something, writing it down can help. The fact that you are taking the sole action of writing, will put a focus on your goals. So, start by writing down a list of things you have to do each day. You can even start a journal. Every day, write what you achieved and what you failed to do regarding your resolutions. This will put things into perspective and motivate you to work on them. (4)
4. Stop procrastinating
Take action. Push yourself to do the necessary steps that will make your New Year’s resolution come true. Tell someone precisely what you want to achieve every day. This will create a subtle sense of obligation that will spur you to take action. Our Intention Inspired web app is perfect for doing just that. You can tell others who are also challenging themselves with one of our Intention series what you plan on doing that day.
5. Practice time management
Time management is not just another soft-skill you put in your CV to seem professional. It should be your New Year’s resolution because it will reduce the amount of stress in your life, offer you more free time, decreases the number of mistakes you make and prevent burn-outs. Each morning, take a few minutes to organize and prioritize the tasks you have to do that day. This will help you stay on course.
6. Practice mindfulness
If you want to improve your focus and attention, deal with depression, stress and anxiety more efficiently, become self-aware and learn to live in the moment, practice mindfulness. Each day, take ten minutes to breathe in, breathe out, focus on your body and meditate. Our 30 Days of Mindfulness Challenge is a great way to make mindfulness a daily practice at the beginning of 2018! It only takes 5 to 15 minutes a day and can really set the tone for a great new year.
7. Practice gratitude
Express thankfulness. Besides improving your psychological and physical health, enhancing empathy, self-esteem and helping you sleep better, gratitude will make you more open to new relationships. There are many ways to express your thanks, but choosing and acting upon one of the gratitude challenges that can be found on the internet is probably the best idea. Our 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge is a great way to experience more join and naturally attract more abundance in 2018!
8. Practice self-compassion
Although practicing mindfulness will help you become more self-compassionate, you should still work on it separately. Loving yourself, recognizing you are enough and permitting yourself to be imperfect are the most important things you can do for your mental health. Here is some advice on how to turn this into action. You can also go to a therapist who will support your goal.
9. Move your body every day
This is one of the hardest New Year’s resolution to stick with, yet one of the most important. Making a habit of at least half an hour of physical activity a day could make you healthier and extend your life. Chose one or two activities that seem acceptable and fun. Running, swimming, yoga, jumping rope, riding a bicycle – anything will do. Find a partner that will motivate you to stay on track. (6) Our 30 Days of Healthy Challenge makes this simple and easy! It only takes 5 – 10 minutes a day and will give you ways to move your body daily that aren't too difficult and will get you starting the year with a bunch of tiny wins!
10. Sleep better
Don’t eat protein-rich foods before bedtime. Make your bedroom sleep friendly. Try to stay away from screens at least an hour before bed. Do something relaxing before you go to sleep. Organize your days, so you get 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
11. Eat for health
If your goal is to lose or gain weight, rephrase it into this one – eat healthier. It will be much easier to achieve and control desired weight once you are eating the right food. You don’t have to go all at once. For starters, stop buying sweets and junk food. Download an app that will keep you on track. Drink water whenever you can. Stop skipping meals. Our 30 Days of Health Challenge makes this a piece of cake! It only takes 5 – 10 minutes a day and will give you great simple micro challenges every day that will get your body moving and your spoon finding healthier alternatives.
12. Express your feelings
Every day, make a mental note of how you feel and find a way to express it. You can do it in front of the mirror, for a start. Tell yourself how you felt that day. As you make progress, you should start showing your emotions to other people too. Make sure to make a step forward each day.
13. Stay in touch
If your goal is to spend more time with friends and family, start small. Each day, talk to them. You don’t have to meet them in person, but make sure to call them or contact them using social networks. Keep in touch; this will create more opportunities for socializing.
14. Let go of resentment
Through the year, resentment will come and go. The important thing is that you learn how to deal with it. Your new habit of writing things down can be helpful with this. This isn’t something you have to practice daily, just every time you notice resentment is affecting your life.
15. Battle one addiction
Cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, shopping, sex or internet – everyone has their addiction. Maybe it is dangerous, perhaps it is not, but you already recognize you have a problem giving it up. You don’t have to deal with all of them at once, battling one is hard enough. Choose the one that affects your life and health the most severely and take necessary steps to deal with it. Seek healthcare or psychological help if needed.
16. Take care of your health
You are stuck with this body till the rest of your life, so you better take care of it. Visiting a doctor’s office once or twice a year for a regular check-up is a good idea. Schedule your appointment as soon as you can. Want to avoid the doctor as much as possible? Then just do our 30 Days of Health Challenge. It only takes 5 – 10 minutes a day and will give you some small wins every day that just make you feel good. It will help you learn your body better, get you moving, find healthier food alternatives and make your doctor go broke. Sorry, not sorry doc!?
17. Save money
Get a piggy bank or any jar that can serve the same purpose. Put some cash in it each day. This way, you will be able to see your progress. It won’t be just some virtual number on your bank account. Set a purpose for your savings. Apply some of these tips every day.
18. Give away some of your stuff!
The best way to be able to receive new exciting things in 2019 is to make room for them. So give away those sweaters you never wear. Donate that old laptop that is collecting dust. Go through your books and ask yourself which ones you know you're not going to read again and give them away! It's so refreshing to have new empty space around you in a new year. One thing is certain, you'll find a way to fill every space you clear out.
19. Become a lifelong learner
If you are eager to learn, you probably decided to start learning a new language, developing a new skill or came up with a new hobby. If you want to make your New Year’s resolution happen, you will have to go one step at a time, but make it regular. Choose one thing you want to learn and do it daily. Once you are satisfied with your level of knowledge, you can proceed to next item. You can even do it casually, by devoting an hour each day to read a book, or actively by taking a class, the choice is yours.
New Year’s resolutions should apply to the whole year ahead of you, while some may apply to your entire life, so don’t expect them to magically come true by the end of the February. Work on them, continually, little by little. Expect setbacks, deal with them and stay motivated. (7)