Although I realize that January is the beginning of the calendar year, and folks like to make health resolutions at that time of the year, but I think it’s a terrible idea.
It’s no wonder that by Superbowl weekend, most resolutions are broken and forgotten. There are many reasons why resolutions go by the wayside: often times they’re vague (I’m going to get healthy!), or overambitious (I’m going to start running every day – even though I haven’t run a mile in 5 years), or there’s just no real planning behind the resolution (HOW are you going to get healthy? What steps are you going to take to accomplish that?).
When looking at people’s behaviors and what factors make them change their habits, researchers discovered that many folks changed their habits after a major life event. They didn’t even realize that they were doing it. But when their life changed due to a marriage, job change, move, divorce or birth, they naturally changed things like where they shopped, or the time they woke or went to sleep. They even change
d the types of foods they ate!
In fact, this type of change is so disruptive that people will change their buying habits during one of these life events. Target actually got in trouble for marketing to women who were pregnant, whom Target targeted by examining their buying habits. Yet some of these women hadn’t even told anyone of their impending bundle of joy. O.o
What these events signal is what Gretchen Rubin refers to in her book, Better than Before, as a Clean Slate. And although the New Year has the potential to be a clean slate, because it’s the beginning of a new calendar year, in truth, there isn’t enough of a routine disruption from the end of the old year to the beginning of the new year to make it truly a new beginning.
It’s the biggest downfall I see with New Years Resolutions happening in January: to begin a new habit, it’s best to tie that habit to another, existing habit. And your new habit has an even better chance of surviving if you adopt it during one of these disruptive, clean slate events.
How is September a Clean Slate?
I’ve always felt a new year vibe that corresponds with the beginning of the school year. I mean, as a kid, who can deny that?
We can use this same disruption in our daily lives as adults to create habits that we want to stick – or use it to help us break habits that we’d rather get rid of. It’s easier if you’re an adult with school aged kiddos since your routine is largely determined by them, but it’s still doable if you don’t. – Just pick the weather changing or from summer to fall or the time change as your clean break.
The reason that this works is that things are already disrupted: schedules, routines, leisure time, the foods we have available to us, when we eat, waking time, it’s getting darker earlier, and the weather is cooling off. Most folks are coming off the relaxed schedule of the summer & creating what their new daily routine is going to look like.
So, why not use these external changes to your benefit? Why not also change something that you want to change?
Since new habits are best formed when you can piggyback them on to another habit, it’s the perfect opportunity. Want to start working out? Tie that into something you’re already doing: go to the gym while you’re commuting to or from work; Do a 20 minute workout after dropping the kids of at the bus; immediately after your volunteer gig; before you go to book club. Whatever. You get the idea.
With the time change happening in a few months, you can use this time to cultivate better sleep habits: develop habits that lead to a better night’s sleep – start a sleep routine. Set an alarm to remind you that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. Set a second alarm to signal that it’s 5 minutes to bed time, and at that time, all electronic screens are off.
As for eating patterns, as the weather cools, the foods that we eat naturally change too! Where summer is great for salads (I’m SO OVER salads!), cook outs, and summery margaritas, those foods will likely slowly get phased out of your weekly diet plan. Why not use that opportunity to add more vegetables in your diet? Instead of pasta, spiralized zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet potatoes are a great substitution.
These are just some ideas.
What are some of the habits that you’d like to add to your life? How can you use this time of year to do that?