With the new year arises new resolutions and aspirations. It’s a simple feat to simply aspire to positively change one aspect of our lives, but in order to actually fulfill this aspiration, we need to turn our actions into habits. The act of forming a habit requires a great conscious effort and a sense of diligence, but if one can conquer the art of forming habits, fulfilling new year’s resolutions will seem effortless. A new year’s resolution may entail a large time commitment, such as setting one’s mind to make a daily trip to the gym. Others, like drinking a glass of water with lunch every day, or keeping a clean room, require short and manageable spurts of timely dedication. With enough focus and energy, these resolutions will soon become second nature. Going to the gym every day will feel as habitual as going to school or brushing our teeth.
As greek philosopher Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
No matter how taxing, it’s essential to understand the series of steps we must take in order to develop productive habits and constructively change our lives for the better.
The new year has its inspirational effects—but to what extent? The mere change from 2017 to 2018 does not aid us in actually maintaining the correct course of positive change, so why do we feel so inclined to do something about our lives as January the first comes along? The new year gives us a chance to look on the months past and on a blank slate construct progressive resolutions designed to guide us in personal improvement. But as the new year fades out of view, so often does our inspiration. If instead we viewed every day as a new year, bustling with excitement and opportunity, perhaps we would approach life with more encouragement and positivity. Don’t worry if you feel that you already failed your resolutions this year. The new year is right around the corner! The first step to forming positive habitual change in our lives is the realization that inspiration and success is spurred from within the individual, not the turning of the calendar.
Maintaining a positive mindset may aid the process of forming good habits and fulfilling new year’s resolutions, but there are other more tangible methods that can do wonders for our success in life. The second step in creating positive habits and living the life we want to live is starting small and maintaining balance. A common downfall in actualizing resolutions is getting too excited and biting off more than we can chew at the very beginning of the process—in other words, “overreaching” our own aspirations. Overreaching can lead to physical and mental fatigue as well as a lack of inspiration. This is the direct cause of the infamous phrase “burning out,” meaning the loss of will, mental strength, and energy. Burning out is also a product of an unhealthy imbalance between work and rest. Often directly linked to overreaching, not giving our minds enough rest can make us tired, anxious, and overwhelmed. The trick to constructing positive habits is not doing too little or too much, but just the right amount to stay sharp and inspired.
One simple way of preserving balance in our lives is simply getting enough sleep. When we get enough sleep, we wake up fresh and ready to conquer the day. When we get an unsatisfactory amount of sleep, we don’t give our minds and bodies enough time to recover from the day before, making every task feel significantly harder than it would be if we simply gave ourselves a little more shut-eye.
Mindfulness, the act of being completely mentally focused on the present, is another way of giving our brains true rest. But with mindfulness, we are aware of the rest we are gifting ourselves, and we can be mindful at any point in the day. One may, to be mindful, take a seat in a natural place such as a meadow or a forest, and simply tune out everything in their lives but the sounds they hear and feelings they gather from that moment. Mindfulness gives our brains a break from the clanging of everyday expectations, stressors, and responsibilities. This meditational-esc method can also be useful on commutes, such as the walk from home to school. As our lives are very repetitive, we often overlook the small, subtle aspects of life. If you find yourself bored of your daily commute, take time to look, feel, and listen—you’ll find life is much more vibrant than you give it credit for. Mindfulness can also of course be done at home, in a silent, comfortable room, and as long as it does not endanger the individual being mindful, it is an extremely useful method of freeing ourselves from regular pressures and maintaining a fresh attitude. Every aspect of mindfulness, whether it’s a balanced mind, enhanced brainpower, or a heightened appreciation for life, aids us in our inspirational and physical potential to form habits and fulfill our resolutions.
The third step in forming positive habits is staying organized. Constructing habits takes a long time. In fact, it takes 66 days, or about two months to make a habit automatic, according to a study conducted by health psychology researcher Phillipa Lally at the University of London. The average human’s ability to forget, or “The Forgetting Curve” created by german psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus, states that a person loses retention of 80% of brand new information within 6 days if not repeated upon. As forming habits heavily relies on repetition and whether or not we actually remember to repeat an action, it’s easy to say that The Forgetting Curve can be applied to constructing habits. Thus, it is essential to stay organized in order to remind ourselves to stay on task and make our habits automatic. One way to stay organized is keeping a planner, leaving daily iPhone reminders, or even simply tying a string around the ring finger.
If you feel as though you already missed your opportunity to positively change your life this year, don’t worry. With the right attitude and the right course of action, you can form ever-useful habits and realize your potential to change your life for the better.