December 30th, 2023,
11 min read
Setting a New Year’s resolution is a widespread tradition, particularly in the United States. A 2022 poll by YouGov revealed that 37% of Americans had set a goal or resolution for 2023. Top resolutions often include improving fitness, finances, and crucially, mental health, reflecting a growing awareness and prioritization of psychological well-being. Yay!
However, maintaining these resolutions is a struggle (right?). The phenomenon of abandoning New Year's resolutions is so prevalent that it has led to unofficially named dates like “Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day” on January 17 and “Quitter's Day” on the second Friday of January.
According to a Forbes Health/One Poll survey, the average lifespan of a resolution is a mere 3.74 months, with only a small fraction of people maintaining their goals beyond this period. This trend underscores the difficulty of transforming resolutions into lasting habits, especially practices like meditation or breathing exercises that require daily commitment.
This article explores the challenges around building new habits so you can understand how to circumvent these and then provides 10 tiny (but good!) tips that will help you.
Why is forming new habits so difficult? There are a couple of reasons that explain this, and they can inform us on how to do better.
The types of goals you set matters when it comes to success.
A study by Swedish researchers, published in PLoS One in 2020, found that the framing of New Year’s resolutions significantly impacts their success. Goals that focus on achieving something (approach-oriented goals) are more successful than those attempting to avoid certain behaviors (avoidance-oriented goals).
Simply put: starting a good habit is more likely to succeed than quitting a bad one. Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is based around eating healthy. You’ll more likely succeed when your resolution is: I will eat more fruit. Instead of saying: I will eat less chocolate.
Regular practice is key to habit formation
Habits are formed through repetition and consistency. When we fail to integrate a new habit into our daily routine, it becomes difficult to sustain. And we all know the reasons for this: a lack of time, unforeseen changes in schedules, simply forgetting to perform the new activity regularly... Sounds familiar? Read on to discover how we deal with this.
The challenge of staying motivated without instant gratification
Our brains are hardwired to seek immediate rewards, so when a new habit doesn’t instantly make us feel better or show results, it can be challenging to stick with it. Building new habits around meditation or breathing exercises doesn't always offer immediate or tangible rewards. This delay in gratification can lead to a decrease in motivation over time, making it extra challenging to install these into your daily routine.
Setting realistic and clear goals prevents overwhelm
Sometimes, the goals we set for ourselves can be too ambitious or vague. When a habit or resolution feels too big or not clearly defined, it can be overwhelming. This can lead to procrastination or giving up altogether because the path to achieving the goal isn’t clear or seems too difficult. Let’s say, for instance, you want to ‘integrate more breathing exercises in your life in 2024’. This resolution is too vague and too broad. It would be better to start small but with a very concrete goal. Better is: I want to practice breathing exercises for 5 minutes in the morning, every day, after brushing my teeth.
Installing new daily habits can be challenging. We know this from our own experiences. If only it were as easy as… well, breathing. However, adopting these 10 tiny habits can greatly improve your ability to maintain your daily meditation and breathing routines.
Remember, some days will be harder than others. Practice self-compassion and focus on your effort, not just the outcome. You are doing a great job, every mindful breath is a step in the right direction. The key is consistent, positive progress, not immediate perfection. Small, constructive changes can help ensure these beneficial practices become a lasting part of your life.
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