At this time of year we all want to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. Some aim high by signing up for Dry January, a new gym membership and probably the latest diet too. But that’s a mistake. ‘Doing too much, too soon, wears out your willpower muscle and sets us up for failure,’ says behaviour change expert Dr Heather McKee (drheathermckee.co.uk). ‘Habits are a complex mesh of behaviours – and you can’t resolve them all at once. You must work on untangling them one by one until the habit knot is sorted.’ So, begin with the habits that are easiest to change first, as research shows that these smaller, simpler actions become habitual more quickly. ‘Each time you accomplish a micro-change, you get a sense of satisfaction, and this spurs you on to stick with your goals,’ says Dr McKee.
Set yourself one small change each week. For example, plan a healthy snack at 4pm to avoid the biscuit slump, or aim to walk 100 more steps on your fitness tracker each day.
WORK OUT A PLAN
Willpower alone rarely works. Having a plan, however, does. Known as ‘implementation intention’, it helps you anticipate triggers and figure out other ways of dealing with them. If you eat in response to stress, ask, ‘What would be a healthier way to deal with this stress?’
FIX IT Next time you have a run-in with someone, rather than lighting up a cigarette, reaching for a glass of wine or diving head first into the fridge, try taking a few deep breaths, put on some relaxing music or call a friend instead.
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