Each new year brings a new opportunity for a fresh start. While many make well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions to change certain behaviors or accomplish personal goals, according to US News & World Report, approximately 80% of resolutions fail. So, how can you make lasting positive change in support of your mental health and well-being? In his best-selling book, “Atomic Habits”, author James Clear writes, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.” As we head into 2023, here are some tips derived from his principles and our work that can help support the changes you’re looking to make in your life:
Ask Yourself, “What’s My Why?” – A lot of times people experience stress in their life because they are behaving in ways that don’t align with their values. In order to experience greater overall satisfaction, first, identify what’s important to you. Do you value lifelong learning? Physical health? Being a patient parent? Etc. Establishing what you value most in your life provides direction, helping you to make decisions and choose behaviors that move you towards the life you want to be living. Identify your values and learn how to turn them into behaviors with Brené Brown’s Living Into Our Values exercise.
Make the Good Habits Easy, and the Bad Habits Hard – Many of us experience decision fatigue where we can only make so many decisions over the course of a day. That’s why it’s easier to stick to a diet in the morning than it is at night. So, set yourself up for success by making good decisions easier. For example, if you value creativity and want to paint more, don’t leave your painting supplies buried in your closet, have them more easily accessible. Or if you value physical health and want to stop eating junk food, start by getting rid of the sweets in your house.
Start Impossibly Small – When we succeed at something, our brains release chemicals including dopamine, which is tied to pleasure and motivation. Our bodies then crave another success. Starting small enables you to experience the rewards of achieving your goal and sets you on a path for continued success. So, if you want to start exercising, begin with one pushup, then 2 pushups and so on. If you want to meditate, start simply by taking 5 deep breaths.
Give Yourself Grace – Set realistic expectations and recognize that you’re not going to nail it every day – and that’s ok. If you miss a workout, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, wipe the slate clean and start over tomorrow. Falling short on any given day is not a reason to give up.
Ashley Jensen, LMFT
Senior Manager, Clinical Practice, Clinical Programs
Heather Gebhardt, PhD
CVN Clinical Quality Manager, Clinical Programs
Sr. Manager, CVN Newsroom