5 Tips for Making Sustainable Habits in the New Year
By Jackie Silver MHSc, RD
The New Year is upon us and January is the time when many people set “New Year Resolutions” to exercise more, meditate, get more sleep, or eat better. While these intentions are good, they tend to fall to the wayside by February or March.
Instead of setting “resolutions” or “goals”, I propose we focus on making small, daily changes that can turn into forming practical, long-term habits.
Here are my top five tips for creating sustainable habits:
- Start small
When we set big goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and we’re less likely to stick with them. I suggest starting with a small goal that you think you can do everyday. Once it becomes easy, you can build up from there. For example, if you want to eat more fibre in your diet, start with adding 1 tbsp of chia seeds to your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Once this becomes easy, you can increase fibre in other meals.
- Stack your habits
Pair your new habit with an existing habit. You likely have many habits that you subconsciously do everyday, such as brushing your teeth when you wake up or making your morning cup of coffee. Once you pick a new habit you want to form, stack it with what you already do. For example, if you want to drink more water, pour yourself a glass when you make your morning coffee.
- Make it easy and remove barriers
Forming new habits is hard enough so we need to remove as any obstacles as possible to make it easier. Think about a new habit you want to form and ask yourself what barriers are preventing you from implementing it? Let’s say you want to eat more vegetables but don’t like chopping them. You can avoid that barrier by using frozen vegetables or veggies that don’t require chopping such as cherry tomatoes or baby carrots. Or if you want to eat more home cooked meals but don’t have the time to prep and cook everyday, you can order from a meal kit delivery or prep a large batch of a one-pot meal to reheat for dinners that week.
- Build one new habit at a time
The more goals we set, the harder it is to achieve them. It’s also overwhelming to focus on too many goals at once. To simplify your life, start with one habit for a month or two until it becomes a regular part of your routine before implementing the next one.
- Practice self-compassion
We can be our own worst critics whether it be by judging our actions or making ourselves feel guilty. Let’s quiet our inner critics by practicing self-compassion and speaking to ourselves the way we’d speak to a dear friend. If you skipped a few days of exercise or ordered takeout instead of cooking, it’s okay! Don’t be hard on yourself, you’re human after all. Would you berate a friend for skipping a workout? Absolutely not! So don’t do it to yourself. Replace the guilt with self-compassion by telling yourself you’re human and tomorrow is a new day to get back on track. Missing a workout or ordering takeout won’t derail your progress.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and they support you in forming lasting habits in 2022!
If you’re looking for personalized nutrition support with achieving your health goals, book a free 15-minute, no-obligation discovery call with Pathways’ dietitian, Jackie Silver. Jackie works with kids, teens, and adults.