by Jessica Robinett, MA, LPC
We’re all guilty of it!
December 27 rolls around and we start looking towards the new year and thinking about all the things that we didn’t get done in this year and the emotions start flooding in. Guilt, shame, frustration, and regret start to mix with hopefulness, energy, joy, and promise. We hear this phrase “new year, new me” all over the place and it leads us to think, “can I be a new person this year? Can I change my habits finally?” And for most of us the answer is, “yes! For about a month” and then we inevitably get tired of all the changes, falling back into our old, ingrained habits. This happens to a great many people and it happens every year which then perpetuates the cycle of guilt, shame, frustration, and regret followed by the hopefulness of a new year. It’s as if we think, “if I can just do better this year then I’ll BE better” but what are we actually looking for?
For a lot of us who fall into this cycle each year, we are hoping for a change in our habits and striving towards health and wellness, but where do we go wrong? Why doesn’t it last? The answer could be that while we’re trying to do good things and make healthy changes, we’re doing WAY TOO MUCH.
Studies show that we will better maintain a behavior when it becomes a habit and that for something to become a habit, it must be done without much thought. Studies also suggest that when trying to form new habits, it is easiest to anchor the new desired habits to current regular activities.
For example, if my goal for 2023 is to get in more steps, then I may decide to purchase a treadmill and walk on my treadmill in the evenings while I’m watching TV after dinner. This way, I am anchoring my current habit to a new one and this will make it easier for me to remember to do the new habit. Another example would be that I want to read more books, so I start listening to audio books on my drive to and from work each morning. I’m already in my car each day, so why not add in a healthier habit along with something I’m already doing?
|I want to…||Try…|
|Read More||· Listening to books while driving
·Reading while walking on a treadmill
|Exercise More||·Walking on a treadmill while watching TV or reading
·Walking in place while brushing your teeth or fixing your coffee
These are just a couple of examples, but hopefully you get the idea. The new year often brings with it a sense of “starting over” and while that may sound like just the thing we need; it can actually be harmful if we aren’t careful. The goal shouldn’t be “New Year, new me” but rather “New Year, improved me.”
We should seek to make small, manageable changes in our lives where we can and at least one of those places should be in our grace for ourselves. It can also be tempting to ask too much of ourselves by not giving enough specification to our New Year’s goals. Keep in mind that you want your goals to be SMART- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. The less ambiguous you are with your goal setting, the more successful you will be!
I’ve included a chart and some ideas to get you started. Happy New Year!
|I want to…||Try…|
|Give myself more grace||Saying 3 things I’m grateful for each time I get into my car
|Saying 1 nice thing about myself each time I look in a mirror|
|Get more steps in||Pacing around my house while I’m talking on the phone
|Take a walk around the office or neighborhood while I’m on my lunch break or before I leave for the day
|Set Boundaries||Practice saying, “I’ll get back to you” whenever someone asks me to do anything|
|Say the word “no” in the mirror 3 times each morning to get used to the feeling|
|Eat Healthier||Fixing pre-made meals at the beginning of the week instead of eating out for lunch or dinner (Start with 2-3 so I don’t get overwhelmed)|
|Look for recipes that include my favorite flavors, so i don’t feel like I’m missing out when eating at home|