Here we go again.
The New Year shenanigans used to get me tied up in knots every year. I would think all the worst things about myself and overanalyze my shortcomings. Then I would create an unrealistic goal. Later, I would come up short and feel guilty about failing miserably.
Can you relate? Are you going through this now?
The holidays are stressful.
Sure, Christmas was fun, but you know what I’m talking about. It’s great to see family and share gifts. It’s also the time of year where many of us are taxed financially and physically. It’s been extra cold this time of year, which makes it harder to get outside for exercise. It can be difficult to bounce back from the holiday treats and leisure time. After all the excitement everyone is dreading going back to the work grind. Its not much fun figuring out how to pay for all the fun we had. Why do we try to give up our favorite vices and comforting habits when we most need them?
I’m not trying to say that bad habits shouldn’t kicked. In my experience, the traditional New Year’s resolution pattern doesn’t work over time. According to a recent Washington Post article, “about 25 percent of us don’t stick with it for seven measly days.”
Bad habits are self-perpetuating and cyclical.
In my personal experience I have battled with several bad habits. I’ve managed to recognize several of the main adversaries. The largest obstacle in the battle is the mental struggle. The mind has the power to outsmart itself. I have observed my thought process; my mind will play with my emotions to maintain a behavior.
“I had a rough day, I need this tonight.”
When the habit is finally confronted, the stage is set for a new problem. Overcoming a vice creates a gaping space, which begs to get filled in with something just as bad or worse. It’s not easy to change because life keeps bringing up the same issues. The human mind has a way of creating solutions for problems. Finding a superior solution requires strategy.
Trying to “Quit” just leaves an empty hole.
It could be that you feel like you indulge in too much caffeine or sugar. Maybe it’s overeating, too much television or too much social media. You know best which habits you are ready to change. It usually does not work to just “stop doing it.” An addition strategy is superior to an elimination process.
I recommend a long term strategy for making serious life changes.
I have finally changed my daily habits and improved my life. I am going to share what I have learned, so others can gain from my experience. If you are serious about making changes in your habits permanently, read on, and give this method a shot.
I propose a simple acronym to aid in implementing a serious transformation.
Choose a new hobby and make it a habit.
Rather than trying to “stop” or “quit” an old habit, I recommend starting a new practice first. My method has been to strengthen a new hobby before attempting to let go of the old routine. I prepare and nurture the replacement activity so it’s ready to fill in the hole. Here is the breakdown of the acronym:
Have you ever had a severe neck strain?
I used to experience neck aches that would last for days. I remember feeling a pain that felt like a spear going through my chest to my shoulder. Since I started making exercise a daily routine, these shoulder pains just don’t happen. I do still get a sore neck at times, but this goes away as soon as I get off the computer and get some rest. Daily exercise has drastically improved my physical comfort.
Healthy choices can’t hurt.
It helps to have something to look forward to every day. How much better would it be if you could look forward to something that makes your body feel better in the long run? A healthy habit like running or jogging seems like a burden at first. After a few weeks, it becomes a regular part of the daily routine. The hardest part is getting it started. I started small with a jog around the block after a few sit-ups. Choose something that you know you can pull off. You can build on it later over time. When I REALLY don’t feel like doing it, on those tough days, I tell myself I only need to run, or walk, or stretch, for five minutes; I inevitably feel better once I start and can go longer than I would have thought initially.
Look for an opportunity to achieve.
Choose an activity that involves room for improvement. Exercise offers the opportunity to increase the number of repetitions. Reading books or listening to audio creates a way to learn new skills or gather research. Meeting new people or joining a group may offer a way to network.
Productive habits build up confidence.
I often used to spend hours in the evenings sitting on the couch playing video games. These days I spend that same time either working on my business ideas or writing articles. I look forward to the time just as much, and the result is a productive accomplishment. It’s not wrong to play video games, but I know that I feel better about activities that build my self esteem.
Stack your goals for efficient use of limited time.
One idea I have been considering is joining a Meet Up group for people who go hiking. Nature is good for my soul. Meeting other folks who share this joy leads to great conversations and synchronistic connections. Combine two self-nurturing habits like exercise and friends. Consider asking a close friend to meet with you every week for a hike or finding a co-worker to walk with at lunch. An efficient use of time will help make you feel better and produce new possibilities for growth. I have also found that weekly check-ins are great for accountability. Having someone who will be expecting an update gives me that extra boost to try a little harder to reach my goals.
Looking back at 2016, I am proud of the strides I have taken. I feel better about my health, and I spend more time working on taking proactive steps. I have a larger community of people that I communicate with that are inspiring to me. I have studied books and read more articles than I did in previous years. These changes originated in my decision to start doing seven push-ups every morning. After a few weeks, I started increasing the repetitions.
Replace the bad habits with new HOPE activities and have an excellent 2017.
Starting something simple is a superior tactic than the New Year’s resolution game. Try adding a new routine using the four words from the acronym H.O.P.E as guidelines. Replace habits over a few weeks or months. Make it happen one small step at a time. This method has worked wonders for me, and I sure hope it does for you.