How to make new habits stick

Understanding self-care inside out

By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 11:50 PM

We’re two weeks into the new year and I hope all of you are successfully sticking to your new goals. Over the years, New Year’s resolutions have earned a rather notorious reputation. Research shows that a dismal percentage of people actually see their new year goals through. Well, change is indeed hard, but if we’ve learnt anything from this global pandemic, we know that change is an inevitable part of life, and power lies with those who are able to change and adapt. And the secret to imbibing new habits lies in changing your mind-set.

World-renowned chiropractor, researcher, neuroscientist, and author Joe Dispenza says, “To change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorised self”. He explains that on average, we think 60 to 70 thousand thoughts a day and a whopping 90 per cent of those thoughts are recycled from the day before, meaning we have the same thoughts every single day, feel the same feelings, react in identical ways, behave in the same manner, believe the same theories and stories, and perceive life in the same ways. If you keep doing what you do without even thinking about it, then it’s called a habit. Habits are learned patterns of behaviour which we have developed in our lives. And over time, it has become a repetitive action or response, which sometimes we ourselves may not even realise. But the good news is that anything that is learned, can also be unlearned (or replaced).

So, if you want a new outcome, you’d have to break the familiar loop and dive into something completely new. Be it eating healthier, quitting carbs or sugar, starting an exercise routine, quitting a harmful habit, working on your personal savings, or any new habit you wish to bring in, it is absolutely possible and doable. Remember though, that it is a process so be patient with yourself. Even if you slip, you can restart and continue on your journey towards your goal.

Implementing a new routine can help you establish what’s important, track goals, stop procrastinating, make you healthier, and improve your quality of life. Here are some suggestions to help you through:

1) Introspect: Really take your time to identify the habit you’d like to implement in your life. Get complete clarity on what exactly is important about it. Choose wisely, and check if the habit or goal fits into your lifestyle. For instance, if you want to run daily on the beach, but the beach is an hour’s drive away, you may lose the motivation soon. Adjust your goal accordingly. Identify any possible reasons why you may fall off, and address them carefully.

2) Rule of three:Once you have complete clarity of purpose, pin down your desired outcome and follow the rule of three. If your goal is to drop weight, write down the top three action points. These are non-negotiable. For instance, in this case, the top action points could be (a) Replace white bread with protein bread, (b) 40-minute walk three times a week (c) Consume 2 portions of fruits and vegetables.

3) Pick habits that reinforce each other: When habits are interlinked, there is a higher chance of achieving them, as it brings about a holistic change. For instance, eating healthy and starting daily walks, or waking up early and meditation.

4) Plan: Don’t leave the new habits to chance. We’re all guilty of whiling away our time. Sometimes we’re lost in an episode of Game of Thrones and don’t realise we’ve seen three episodes and it’s been three hours! Sometimes we idle away a whole morning, sometimes an entire week. If you’re losing track of how you spend your time, start a diary for a couple of weeks, noting down what you’re doing every hour. Grill yourself and be honest. Make categories for sections such as work, exercise, socialising, watching your favourite shows, and see how much time you spend on each category, where you want to spend less time, and what you want to spend more time doing. Tracking your progress is equally important.

5) Tell a friend: When we share our intentions for a new routine or goal with others, we’re more likely to stick to them. And we can even go one step further and involve them in our goals, like a workout buddy for example. Having accountability partners always helps in getting that extra push when we need it.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most”.

Pursuing a new habit is not a one-day act, it is a daily repetition of behaviour and actions. Remember, first we make our habits, then our habits make us. So, choose wisely.

Connect with Delna Mistry Anand across social media @DelnaAnand

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