Seeing as many resolutions revolve around health – living a healthier lifestyle by healthier eating, more exercise, or losing weight – lifestyle changes require habit changes.
So what does it take to make a real habit change and form a new habit? Neuroscientists discovered that habit behavior actually originates in the basal ganglia part of the brain, which is the area of your brain responsible for motor learning and motor control. This means that for a behavior to become automatic or habitual, it requires repetition. The more times you perform an action the easier it becomes and eventually starts becoming a habit. But how often do you have to repeat something for it to officially become a habit? What happens when you lose motivation to continue a behavior or action? That is exactly what we are going to dive into.
How often does an action need to be repeated to become a habit?
According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 66 days for an action or behavior to become habitual. Research from Florida State University states that after you have performed a new behavior 30 consecutive days – whether it be exercise or practicing yoga- once per day, your habit has been formed and will continue on with ease. However, it’s important to note that if you miss a day, then all those previous repetitions are negated in terms of forming a habit. While that may sound a bit discouraging, every step you take towards your resolution is progress.
How can I keep motivated?
If it takes a month or more to form a habit, what happens when you lose motivation before then? People lose motivation because they feel their resolutions require too much effort and aren’t worth working towards anymore. With fitness, people frequently feel they are not getting the results they want as quickly as they should be. With healthy eating, people often get discouraged with the time and preparation it takes or whether what they are eating makes a difference. Losing motivation happens to everyone, so in these times, it is important to have discipline. Discipline is the ability to complete tasks or actions even when you don’t feel like it. It is the strength of will and self-control, especially in difficult circumstances. One of the best pieces of advice we can give you in regards to discipline is always to start a task, just start it…if after 10 minutes you still do not want to be being said task, then stop. Oftentimes after a task is started it is not as bad as you initially thought.
The reality of resolutions
According to research from the University of Scranton, New Year’s resolutions have an 80% failure rate by the second week in February, which means that only 20% of people who make resolutions actually achieve them! Suppose you find yourself struggling with motivation or losing trust in your abilities due to a lack of results. At that point, it is important not to let negative thoughts get into your mind as this can lead to a spiral where all progress will be lost even after trying so hard up until now. Rather than focusing on what isn’t working – whether that is time spent on exercise or frustration over delayed results- focus on taking one day at a time. Since habits take at least 30 days to form, set short-term goals of fulfilling your resolution one month at a time.
Creating a resolution, you can stick to.
If your resolution involves exercise taking the following steps can help you achieve it.
As mentioned earlier, forming habits takes time and practice but adding exercise into your life is one resolution that will create big changes if done right from the start. A great way to set goals for this resolution is by creating a plan for yourself.
-Create a timeframe: Decide how many days per week you want to be exercising and write it down as your goal. If you aren’t currently doing any exercise, set an initial goal of once or twice a week. If you are already exercising most days of the week, increase the goal amount by one day or push yourself more during your workouts.
Creating realistic goals will help you achieve them.
-Set specific goals: Set resolutions that can be achieved, such as “exercise for 30 minutes every Monday” rather than something vague like ‘get fit’. This will help keep your motivation high because each time you achieve your resolution, it is another step towards meeting your end result! The more steps there are in between where we stand now and our end resolutions, the easier they seem to achieve.
These steps of creating a realistic timeframe and setting specific goals can be applied to any resolution you set, even if they are not health-based. If your resolution is to read more – by setting a timeframe of how many days a week you want to read and specific goals (such as 15 minutes every morning and 15 minutes every night), you are more likely to achieve your goals and ultimately stick to your resolution.
When deciding on which resolution(s) you want to achieve, think about how long they take (are they quick/easy wins or something that takes more time), how much of a time commitment it is, and how they fit into your current life. Will it be a considerable habit change or a small habit change? It is also important not to make too many resolutions and overwhelm yourself. While the beginning of the year may seem like a great opportunity for lots of change, the reality is that it is not realistic in the long term. We hope this year you set practical and specific resolutions that you can stick to all year long!