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The Best Way To Form Healthy Habits pt. 2

January is almost behind us, and it’s time to check in on those New Year’s resolutions. Have you accomplished everything you had set out to? No? You are not alone.

New Year’s resolutions are amongst the most popular we make. There is something that is just so magical about the “New Year, New Me!” approach (using Jan 1st as a “temporal milestone”, if you want to sound fancy). But how effective are we at keeping them - and what can help us boost that effectiveness? A 2020 study had set out to find out just that.

What they found was fascinating. The most popular resolutions regarded physical health, weight loss, and eating habits (not surprising). At a one-year follow-up, 55% of responders considered themselves successful in sustaining their resolutions.

2 factors which helped them succeed?

  1. Having approach-oriented goals (ones in which we are positively motivated - e.g. to look good and receive praise from others) vs. avoidance-oriented goals (ones in which we are negatively motivated to try to avoid failure or receive scolding from others).

  2. Having some support throughout the process (but suggesting that there may be a point at which further support does NOT equal greater effect)

Another study, conducted in 2001, also tried to help people build better exercise habits. They found that 91% of people who filled out an implementation intention (a plan of how you intend to implement a particular habit) exercised at least once per week. That’s compared to only 35-38% of people who did NOT make a specific plan of they were going to exercise. All groups tracked their workouts, read some material and were educated by medical researchers on the health benefits of exercise.

If we combine what we’ve learned from both of these studies, the following emerges:

  • Frame your new exercise goals to be approach-oriented (e.g. I will exercise because I want to feel good and receive praise from those around me on how well I am taking care of my health)

  • Develop specific implementation plans for your new exercise habits (e.g. I will exercise every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 5 pm at my condo gym)

  • Find ways to be supported through the initial stages of habit development - hire a movement coach, look for an accountability buddy, or join some group classes at a local studio (online or offline)

So don’t worry if you feel like it’s only the beginning of the year and you’ve already “fallen off the wagon. The truth is, Jan 1st is just an arbitrary day. Pick tomorrow as your new start day, and begin implementing those healthy habits with the tips you learned today, as well as the tips from our previous blog post on healthy habits.

What works best for you when developing healthy habits?

Author: Zhana (@zhanaflex)

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