6 steps to replacing New Year’s resolutions with healthy habits

Every year, more than 50% of US adults create New Year’s resolutions, but less than 10% keep them for more than a few months. Although we’re all creatures of habit, developing a new routine can be difficult. To help you develop new habits and reach your goals, we’ve created a habit building guide. We use visiting the Nick and creating a gym routine as an example, but this guide can be used to develop any new healthy habit you’re working on. Instead of setting out-of-reach resolutions, follow the steps below to make your new habit easier to stick with. 

1. Cut yourself a break.

Reaching your goals takes time and is challenging. Give yourself some grace. It may take a few tries to develop a new habit and fit it into your routine, but practice makes progress. Be patient with yourself and take it one day at a time. 

2. Use SMART goals.

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before, because they work. In case you haven’t, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Here’s an example of a non-smart goal:

I want to go to the gym more.

And here’s the same goal using the SMART as a guide:

I want to go to the gym three times a week for 45 minutes for the month of March.

By converting a vague and lofty goal into a SMART goal, it’ll be easier for you to ensure that it’s attainable and measure your progress. 

Another tip is to write your goal down where you’ll see it at least once a day. Try writing it on a bright colored sticky note next to your bed or using a dry erase marker on a bathroom mirror. This will keep it fresh in your mind and serve as a daily reminder to hold yourself accountable.

3. Link to a current habit.

You may already follow some type of schedule for how to spend your time between classes, social life, and other commitments. Are there times in your day that you can use an existing habit to build a new one? Experts have found that connecting a new habit to an old habit will make it easier to follow. For example, if you regularly take a break to watch Netflix between classes and starting homework, try heading to the Nick and watching Netflix on the treadmill or a bike!

If you’re struggling to allocate time between schoolwork and self-care time at home, check out our other blog posts about creating a schedule and setting boundaries.

4. Make a schedule & start small.

Habits can take time to create. One study from the European Journal of Social Psychology found that the average time it takes to form a new habit is 66 days! To hold yourself accountable, schedule your habit into your daily routine. If it’s working out more, use your planner to create a workout schedule where you go to the gym or do a virtual fitness class 2-3 times a week. This will make it manageable but often enough that you won’t forget about it. 

If you’re new to working out, trying to go to the gym every day could cause you to get burnt out and lose motivation quickly. Start with 2-3 days a week and slowly work your way up. This will make it easier for you to reach your goals and continue to progress. If you start with an unattainable goal and miss it a few times, you might lose motivation quickly and be deterred from trying again.

The key to forming a new habit is to do it often. Be patient as it slowly works its way into your routine.

5. Remove any obstacles.

There are plenty of small obstacles that can get in the way of you and exercise. Maybe you’re running late and forgot your gym bag. Or perhaps you don’t feel like changing your clothes again that day.  Planning ahead can solve most of these problems. For example, pack your gym bag the night before and put it next to the door. If you like to work out at night, put your gym clothes on when you get dressed in the morning. If you want to workout in the morning, wear your workout clothes as pajamas. Removing obstacles and preparing ahead of time will make it easier to achieve your goals.

6. Reward yourself

While some habits can have an immediate payoff, like taking a shower makes you feel clean and refreshed, eating well and exercising may not feel rewarding immediately. As you set your goals, schedule rewards over short and long periods to incentivize yourself to keep towards your goals. 

    • An example of a short-term reward could be: doing a face mask when you get home after a workout.
    • An example of a long-term reward could be: buying a new workout shirt after going to the Nick regularly for a month. 

These tangible rewards will keep you motivated to continue your habit by giving you something to look forward to and reinforcing going to the gym.

Creating new healthy habits isn’t easy, but with a little guidance, you’ll be well on your way!  While we used the example of going to the Nick, these steps can create a multitude of healthy habits. As you try to work a resolution into your routine, remember to be patient, make a schedule, link your habits, and reward yourself. No matter the new habit you’re trying to form, following these steps can make the process easier.