How To Form Good Habits This Year

It's that time of year when we all start to make "New Year's resolutions", which is a fancy way of saying we'll try forming better habits. Here are a few tips to make sure they stay habits beyond the month of January.

Photo by Mjmonty.

Often, our New Year's resolutions are us promising ourselves we'll form good habits this year: whether it's something big like "I'm going to eat better" or "I'm going to keep my computer backed up" to "I'm going to actually start flossing every day". So often, though, these habits end up dying off pretty quickly. Here are a few ways to make sure your resolutions become habits and don't become another resolution in the garbage.

Make Sure Your Life Is In Order

Photo by Magic Madzik.

While there's a certain charm to the "no better time than now" idea behind forming good habits, the fact of the matter is that your willpower is limited. Psychology Today recommends waiting until your life is in order (at least somewhat) before forming a new habit. If stressed, working on some other form of personal growth, or otherwise not in a normal daily routine, you'll find it much harder to keep up with a good habit.

Focus On One Good Habit

We won't sugarcoat it for you: forming good habits can be tough. Habits are something that are deeply ingrained in our behaviour, which is why quitting a bad habit is so hard. Similarly, starting up a good habit is going to take a lot of work and conditioning before it becomes something automatic. If you try to take on too much at once, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. So focus on just one good habit for now—even if it's a small one—and move on to the others later.

Work Yourself Into It Gradually

While your goal may be to end up doing something every day (like, say, exercising), it's unlikely that you're going to be able to reach that goal right out of the gate. It's going to take time and willpower to condition yourself, so don't beat yourself up if you miss days at the beginning. Start ramping up that good habit gradually for more successful habit forming.

Part of this is setting goals for yourself. If you can set a different goal, say, each week, you can motivate yourself without getting overwhelmed. Try exercising just two or three days the first week, then set a slightly higher goal for the next week, and so on. As you get more used to the act of exercising during the day, it'll become easier for you to work toward your end goal of working out every day.

Piggyback It With Other, Already-Formed Habits Or Routines

eHow notes that a really great way to help yourself remember to do certain things is to "piggyback" them with other habits or routines you already have. Say you want to start flossing daily. Flossing is one of those habits that we neglect more often because we forget, rather than us just being lazy. Put the floss in a conspicuous place by your toothbrush, and every time you brush your teeth, grab the floss and do a quick run-through. Similarly, if you want to start taking vitamins, stick the bottle in your coffee mug so every time you go to make your coffee in the morning, you can pop your multivitamin for the day.

Get An Accountability Buddy

Photo by Lululemon Athletica.

We've talked about this before, and it's an oldie but a goodie: get a buddy to help you stay accountable. Motivating yourself to go to the gym every day or start eating better can be difficult when you're on your own, but if you have someone else around with whom you can exercise or eat with often, you're more likely to keep up with those activities.

Stick With It For 21 Days

When you decide on that final goal, it can seem a bit overwhelming ("I want to exercise every day...for the rest of my life"). Once you turn a resolution into a habit, though, things are going to get a lot easier, and research shows it shouldn't take that long. It takes about 21 days for a habit to form, so as long as you keep up your motivation, set your gradual goals, and kept up that resolution for three or four weeks, the hard part's probably over. That habit's now ingrained in your brain to the point where remembering it and being motivated to do it has become automatic instead of something you need to force yourself to do. This doesn't mean quit trying after 21 days, of course—it'll still probably take a bit of work—but if you're feeling discouraged at any point in the process, it's a good thing to aim for, knowing that in just a few weeks it'll be a bit less difficult.

We've all tried to form good habits in the past, and while these are some great tips for starting out, they certainly aren't the only strategies in the habit-former's arsenal. If you've successfully formed a good habit in the past, share with us what worked for you (and what didn't) in the comments.

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Comments

    my option is a hybrid accountability budy & 21 days sorta deal.

    Me and my girlfriend although 'clean' are very 'messy' so leave clothes on the floor and such. We found that while one of us wasn't too bad leaving maybe 3 items on the floor at a time once we moved in together suddenly this became 6 items and after that you stop caring and just start putting all clothes on the floor, and the floordrobe was borne.

    So we have an infraction jar, any item of clothing left on the floor after going to bed or getting ready in the morning is a gold coin into the jar. We are doing it for a month with the idea being after the month we will simply be in the habbit and maintain it. The money doesn't matter since the infraction jar is next to my coin jar (i dont carry coins) its more the pride/game aspect of it. At the end of the month we will go to dinner and discuss the next annoying habbit we can knock over.

    The only issue so far has been that it looks like we will struggle to pay for a maccas dinner and the next habbit will probably be me taking better care of my paperwork :(

    The vitamins and coffee idea is actually not a great one. Caffeine can interfere with the absorption of some vitamins, so you shouldn't take them within an hour or so of your coffee.

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