Planning to make some new resolutions come January? Don’t wait! If you get a jump on your resolutions now, you’ll already be halfway to locking in new behaviors when 2017 arrives. Here are six research-backed methods to help your new habits stick.
1. Choose a simple daily goal. Research suggests that new behaviors are more likely to become habits when they’re easily done on a regular basis. In other words, aim to take the stairs instead of the elevator each day instead of planning a 10-mile run once a month.
2. Keep it consistent. You’re more likely to follow through if you do your new activity the same way each time. If you want to eat more vegetables, try to add a serving of something you know you like to your dinner plate each day, rather than trying to experiment with unfamiliar produce at all different times of day.
3. Start small. If you don’t exercise at all, don’t start trying to jog for 30 minutes every day. Choose a more doable goal, like taking a brisk walk four times a week. Once you’ve mastered that, you can set a slightly bigger goal.
4. Focus on what you can do. It’s hard to make a habit out of not doing something, like not eating sweets. Instead, focus on what you can do, such as choosing a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar.
5. Enlist help. If you’re trying to start an exercise routine or give up smoking, announce your plan to friends or family members who can help hold you accountable. Better yet, enlist a buddy who wants to adopt healthy habits of his or her own, and you can support each other on your resolution journeys.
6. Don’t give up. Research suggests it can take as long as 10 weeks for new behaviors to become habits. Keep trying, and eventually your healthy new routine will become automatic.
Check out the UCLA Health Wellness Library for more healthy-living strategies.