Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions...Seriously! Try Stacking Tiny Habits Instead

healthy lifestyle tips Jan 17, 2021

Did you know that January 17th is “National Ditch Your Resolutions Day”?  Yes, January 17th has become known as one of the most common days for people to give up on their New Year’s resolutions. Can you believe that giving up on our resolutions is so common, that it has even earned its own National holiday day?!?

We can feel pretty certain that most people are not giving up on their resolutions because they’ve decided those goals are no longer important to them.  So why, if those goals were important enough to us 3-weeks ago to make a resolution and start down the path, do we give up on them so quickly?

It really comes down to the flawed nature of resolutions themselves.  Resolutions come with this expectation to be perfect.  We decide that from a specific day forward we will ALWAYS do the action, habit or behavior (or we will NEVER do it again).  

For us humans, these are impossible expectations to meet. It’s in our nature to be flawed, to make excuses, and to give into temptations. We wear a lot of hats and our plans can often be uprooted by our various roles in life, and unexpected circumstances. Resolutions have little flexibility so they set us up to fail, which stops us completely in our tracks, and prevents us from achieving that longer term vision for our life.

Resolutions also generally include making quick, gargantuan changes that are painful, or take a lot of willpower, time and effort. If it’s too hard or painful, your brain will find ways (excuses) to stop you from doing it.  Your willpower will wain fast, you’ll feel discouraged, and you’ll give up completely on your goals and dreams.

So seriously, I’m giving you permission to scrap those New Year's resolutions TODAY.

Instead, consider taking a different approach. In my training as a Behavior Change Specialist, I learned concepts like the “Tiny Habit” approach and “Habit Stacking.”  I encourage my clients to take these more sustainable approaches to building habits that will help them achieve their longer-term goals and ideal healthy lifestyle.

Whether you are part of my Thrive Tribe fitness and wellness community or working with me in one of my personalized coaching programs, we will work together to create tiny habits and stack them into your life over time so that they feel doable and sustainable.

In this article, I share more details about the tiny habit approach along with tips to creating your own tiny habits. I've also include 5 of my favorite tiny habits for better energy and weight loss. 

TINY HABIT APPROACH

The key to behavior creation is to build subconscious habits that start to feel natural so that it doesn’t take conscious effort or willpower to maintain...because that is completely exhausting!

According to research done by BJ Fogg, Phd at Standford University there are a few key pieces to creating behavior change…

#1 - Simplicity Matters More Than Motivation

If the behavior is simple, you don’t need a lot of motivation to do it. Motivation is unreliable, it comes and goes which means your habits will come and go. Inconsistent habits do not create results. 

Start very small. You are trying to make it easy to create a consistent, automatic action. If it’s too painful or hard, your brain will find ways to stop you from doing it. Over time, tiny habits grow naturally to their expected size.

I’m a big proponent of simplicity and tiny actions. I also emphasize not overthinking or overcomplicating the process when it comes to helping my clients build a fitness and nutrition plan. We don’t need to schlep to the gym every day, dealing with packing a bag, driving, parking and fighting for equipment to gain access to a good workout.  We don’t need to exercise for an hour every day, with all the equipment in the world, to get results that make us smile.  

Exercising at home using quick and simple online workouts, with minimal equipment, has kept me consistent with my fitness as a busy, working mom for the past 7 years. As a fitness professional, I appreciate that I don’t have to come up with my own workouts. I love being pushed by the trainers in these programs, and feeling supported by my team of coaches and online fitness and wellness community.

Simplicity matters when it comes to nutrition too. Nutrition has become overcomplicated and can feel confusing. We wonder, what should I eat for this goal and what foods should I avoid? How much of this is too much or too little? Should I track or listen to my intuition? This person says I should eat this, but this other person says I shouldn’t. It’s enough to make you fear eating anything, or might drive you to grab a spoon and plow through that tub of ice cream in the freezer.

Instead, let’s keep it simple. Most of us know a handful of foods that are good for us, so let’s start there. My clients might make simple changes like adding in an extra serving of greens, finding a few quick, balanced breakfasts to try, starting with a full glass of water first thing in the morning by setting a bottle by their bed at night, or boosting their nutrition with a daily superfood shake.

Simplicity is the difference between doing a behavior and not doing it. So, start super simple and know that in the long run your consistency with these small actions will build up to longer term, larger change. Your success with these small changes will build your confidence and keep you feeling inspired and excited about your goals.   

#2 - Positive Emotion Creates Habits

If you have a positive emotion during or immediately after a habit, the new behavior will become more automatic. Celebrating every small win, even if it’s with a little victory dance or pat on the back or saying “victory.” will give you that positive feeling you need to keep going. (BJ Fogg, 2014)

Every time I meet with my clients, I ask them about their wins. No matter how small, we celebrate because celebrating those successes fuels them to keep going.  In my online fitness community, we set one goal each week and check in on those goals. We celebrate each other’s action, even if it’s imperfect.  We celebrate completing a fitness program, making a healthy food choice, being able to put on a wedding ring again, getting in our ounces of water, inspiring our kids to move, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and pretty much anything else that will give us a chance to do a happy dance! 

So celebrate your wins, no matter how tiny. This positive feeling will inspire you to continue to show up and take action on your goals.  

#3 - Put The NEW Behavior AFTER An Existing Routine

It’s important when creating tiny habits that we put the new behavior after an existing behavior. You want to anchor the new habit to an existing routine or event that happens automatically so that it reminds you to do the new habit. 

START BY WRITING YOUR TINY HABITS

Write a “tiny habit recipe” for yourself. Here is what it looks like:

  • After I brush my teeth at night, I will set out my workout clothes for the next day.
  • After I turn off my morning alarm, I will grab my water bottle and start drinking.
  • After I shower and dress, I will make my morning superfood smoothie.
  • After I walk in the door from work, I will put my phone in a drawer and go chat with my spouse.
  • After I use the bathroom, I will do 10 squats and 10 chest openers.
  • After I grab my plate for dinner, I will fill it ¾ full with veggies.

Remember to keep it simple and celebrate every time you successfully do the new habit!

HABIT STACKING

Once you get those initial tiny habits going and they are becoming automatic, you can start to layer in more new habits. This is called “habit stacking.” So rather than making a lot of changes at once, which can feel overwhelming and take a lot of effort, you’ll layer in changes one at a time. Creating larger changes takes time and nurturing so give it the time it needs. Starting too big, can be painful and shut you down before you begin so don’t force a ton of big changes at once.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  1. Pick habits you want, not what you should do. This will help with motivation.
  2. Make it really easy to do. Many small habits are better than one big change. If one small habit breaks, they don’t all break.
  3. Have a prompt or anchor for the behavior to remind you to do it.
  4. Find a way to feel good and celebrate immediately after so that you are motivated to keep going.
  5. Stack more habits into your routine as you successfully complete the current habits.
  6. Find a coach, supportive community and/or an accountability buddy. Studies show that having a support system while creating change is one of the most impactful tools.

TOP 5 TINY HABITS FOR MORE ENERGY & WEIGHT LOSS

  1. After you brush your teeth at night, fill a glass or bottle of water and put it by your bed. After your alarm goes off in the morning, grab your bottle and drink it. 
  2. After you dress for your day, make a superfood smoothie for breakfast and drink it.
  3. Every time you use the bathroom, do 2 minutes of movement (squats, pushups, jumping jacks, stretches, walking up and down the stairs)
  4. After you grab your plate for lunch or dinner, fill it with ½ to ¾ veggies first.
  5. After you open the fridge or cabinet to look for a snacky food, close the door and text/call a friend or hug a pet (we are often times feeling bored or emotional and just need a distraction or pick-me-up)

If you are ready to get started on building tiny habits and stacking them towards health and fitness success, let’s chat!  You can schedule a complimentary discovery call with me where we discuss your goals, areas you want to focus on, and how we can work together on those goals.  There is no obligation to say “yes” to working together, just a chance for you to gather information and an opportunity for me to help you narrow in on your focus.

 

References: Natalie Digate Muth, M.D. & Daniel J. Green (2014). Coaching Behavior Change by the American Council on Exercise.

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