It’s the time of year when we often get asked, “How’s your New Year resolution going?” For the past few years I’ve been studying the behavior of well-being and after learning from both consumers and experts in the wellness space, I believe more than ever that ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ is a phrase that should be retired along with the uncertainty of 2020.
Don’t get me wrong—I believe it’s important to have ambitions and to have goals for a healthier life. However, only 8% of Americans keep their resolutions by February 1, and after defeat most of us feel miserable that we haven’t been able to live up to the impossible standards that come with the potentially false promises we make to ourselves. We give up and go back to our familiar routines and habits. So I’m here to assert: it’s not your fault. There’s often a painful gap between what we want to achieve and what we actually do.
Personally, I believe true behavioral changes happen through smaller steps over sweeping resolutions. Incremental changes are often longer-lasting and lead to bigger results and not to mention, when we have small goals, it’s much better for our psyche. Small steps help us to celebrate small wins every day.
Small is powerful. Small is BIG.
Want some good news? You can make long-lasting change and you can do it today—without a laundry lists of resolutions. You simply just begin—it’s that simple.
1. Start with focusing on your well-being and making time to nourish yourself
Small habits can and should be different for everyone, and the cues come from being in tune with what your mind and body needs. Trust me, running a company as a mother of two with another on the way, I understand it’s often difficult to be ‘in tune’ with yourself. But taking 5 minutes to ask yourself, “what do I need” makes a difference. Sometimes it is a glass of water, sometimes it is spending 5 minutes listening to your favorite ‘at bat’ theme song or taking a deep breath. Don’t overthink this—write down a few things that you think will matter if done frequently.
2. Choose something
Here’s the good news about small habits—they can start now, they can be done quickly, and they don’t rely on tremendous willpower or motivation. So simply choose one thing, one habit, and it will be easier to remember and be safe from self-criticism.
3. Identify your trigger
After you’ve decided on the habit—drinking water, taking vitamins, etc—identify a time or multiple times a day you can do it. For me, there are things that I do multiple times a day that act as triggers in building a new habit—brushing my teeth, getting a glass of water, etc. Recently, I wanted to work on my strength through this pregnancy. So, any time I was waiting for a zoom meeting, my habit was that I did five push-ups.
Two minute stretch—doesn’t seem like that much, right? Well, when you take those two minutes to do it, you realize it was small, easy, and worth celebrating. Find a way to celebrate the tiny step—give yourself a smile, tell yourself you’re worth it. Whatever it is, make sure you celebrate.
5. Be kind to yourself
If you forget one day, shrug it off. Don’t treat this like a resolution, where if you miss a day that you completely abort the mission. In fact, give yourself permission to mess up and not toss the habit altogether. It should be very easy to get back to it the next time you have the trigger.
As you start to master small habits, you’ll find that they naturally become bigger. My five push-ups have become 10, multiple times a day. It naturally happened and now I’m getting stronger. As I’m constantly using this approach to add more seamless habits to my day, I’ve realized this formula helps me understand my own behavior. And I’ve found that my inner critic has stopped focusing on what I haven’t done, and I spend more time celebrating.
So if after the first few weeks of 2021, you’re feeling stressed out, unmotivated, but still yearning to reset, you’re not alone. It’s hard to realize the feeling of being stuck isn’t permanent. But with small habits, we can all get unstuck. So together, let’s call bullshit on lofty new year resolutions and instead focus on small wellness habits. Because small is powerful and will leave your psyche in a much better space.