January is here—the month synonymous with change! We’ve come off December with hangovers, full bellies and the need to present a ‘new me’ to the world. Perhaps you’d like to quit smoking, or you’d like to get in shape, or even learn a new language. Whatever your goal is, there is no shortage of advice out there (or in our library) to get you started on your path.
My advice? Start small! For years I felt the need to change my eating habits to improve my health. Yes, a great goal, but a tad too broad to be easily implemented. Countless time I started with a full Pinterest board of recipes, intense workouts and fitness inspiration but, after a couple of weeks I somehow always fell back into my old routine. It took years of this cycle to find out that adopting all the habits of a fitness guru overnight was not exactly the best way to make long-lasting healthy changes that fit into my lifestyle.
Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold highlights the importance of changing small habits gradually to make big changes over time. Instead of trying to adopt as many changes as possible to transform your life quickly, try what Arnold suggests and identify one or two small ways to slowly improve. Once you have an activity ingrained into your routine as much as checking your pockets for your keys when you leave the house, you’ll be ready to slowly start changing something else. I started with a simple 15 min exercise, that may seem easy for most, but that’s the point! A small start was a start that worked for me when my habit at the time was to avoid strenuous activity at all costs. And with time I was able to build upon the fifteen minutes to make an hourly routine that has been sustainable for years. And if it suddenly doesn’t fit into my life? That’s okay, new habits can always be added and adjusted!
Speaking of subconscious habits, Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t and How to Make Anything Stick by Jeremy Dean addresses our internal autopilot system. Dean uses the example of walking into a room during a power outage and, by subconscious habit, flicking on the light. He argues that the mind is carrying out all sorts of high-level tasks unconsciously and in turn, some of those tasks may be the bad habits that are keeping us from reaching our goals. Take the time to be mindful in order to notice if your habits reflect your goals, or if they may be one of those pesky bad habits that may be turned on autopilot. The subconscious habit that I noticed about myself had been around since High School. Little teenage Jessie would never pack any food for school, so I would come home and have a big unhealthy snack before a generous dinner. As an adult, I had developed the habit of meal prepping my food throughout the day, but I still had that subconscious habit of snacking when I got home. It wasn’t until the habit was recognized that I was able to consciously create a new one to replace the old. Now I get home and do chores, draw, read—anything but snacking all evening!
So now that you’re armed with a few tips, what will your big change be? We are entering a new decade and there is no better day than now to start a new and healthy habit. Just remember progress takes time, so be kind to yourself and keep at it!
For more information on changing habits, check out some of the related materials in our collection:
–Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold
–Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
–Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t and How to Make Anything Stick by Jeremy Dean
–The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How To Change It by Charles Duhigg
–Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath
–The Kindness Method: Change Your Habits for Good Using Self-Compassion and Understanding by Shahroo Izadi
–Healthy Habits Suck: How to Get Off the Couch & Live a Healthy Life…Even If You Don’t Want To by Dayna Lee-Baggley
–Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Craft Rubin
–Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes that Stick by Wendy Wood