Embracing the new year seems to come with a multitude of resolutions, intentions, habit-changes, and commitments that more than likely we will have trouble keeping beyond even week one. As we find ourselves in the midst of January, perhaps you are struggling to stick with it or have already thrown in the towel. Take a minute. Take a breath. This is hard, but you are stronger than you know. Try to reset your view of your goals/resolutions/commitments etc. Look at whatever is challenging you in small steps. Break it down to changes that aren’t as daunting as, “I’m not doing XYZ ever again,” and look at it as, “I will stop doing this part of XYZ, and then work on the next piece.” For example, if you are trying to abstain from ALL sugary foods, pick your biggest sugar vice to go without. Don’t deprive yourself from ALL sugary foods. Depravation can lead to lapses, which can lead to feeling defeated and giving up altogether.
Another way to attack your goals is to look at them in a logical way:
1. These are habits that I want to change
2. I know I have the power to develop new habits
3. Yes, it takes willpower, but I know it is possible
According to the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, understanding our habits and how they impact us will help to change them. Habits are at the core of everything we do and when we look at them for what they are – a 3-step loop comprised of a cue, routine, and reward – we can begin to understand how to change them. Duhigg states that when we substitute just one part of the loop, the routine, we can shift our habit altogether. By changing the routine, the experience of the habit still remains in tact. We are still receiving the same cue and reward, only changing the action in the middle. For example, say you love having a canned diet soda with your lunch every day. You sit down to lunch, pull out your soda, pop the tab open, and take a sip. In this scenario, sitting down to lunch is the cue, drinking diet soda is the routine, and the reward could be a multitude of things – the bubbles, the taste, the sound of the can opening, etc. If you are trying to stop drinking diet soda, the simplest way to change this habit is to substitute your diet soda for a canned seltzer. The routine of sitting down for lunch, opening the can, and drinking, all remains the same. You are still having the same experience that you crave, only you’ve changed the diet soda habit for a canned seltzer. Duhigg provides interesting comparisons and stories about habits and how they effect our lives at home, in the office, and socially. He also touches upon the most important habit, willpower, and how it is possible to strengthen it over time.
Check out his book for a fun, motivating read this new year. His real-life examples and comparisons make the concepts easy to grasp and teaches the reader how to understand habits and why they are so important in all aspects of life, not just during our short-lived new year resolutions.
- Therapy West Staff