From Dictionary.com: Habit: an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. The hope here, of course, is that habits are good healthy ones. All though most of us focus on New Years resolutions to modify our habits, any time of the year is prime time. In fact, embracing behavior modification on a steady basis is commendable. Let’s look at 5 ways to form good new habits.
Use a system of cues and rewards. “We form a habit when we repeatedly do a certain action in the presence of a particular cue,” Benjamin Gardner who is a professor of psychology at King’s College in London. A cue can be anything as long as it is as specific as possible. When I so much as touch the leash that I keep on a side table in the living room, my dog, a Black-Mouth Cur, gets whacko. He knows a 5-mile walk is in our immediate future. The reward can be anything. A long shower at the gym after a workout was my reward before the COVID-19 pandemic shut it all down and turned us all into anchorites.
Learn the concept of if-then thinking. This can take the form of an affirmation. For example, you might say, “if I just fed the dogs, then it’s time to take my blood pressure medicine.” This one works for me every day.
Take your time, no pressure. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are new good habits. Just keep working on it and sooner or later the “involuntary” magic happens.
Learn to be a choice architect. This is a somewhat nebulous term but it simply means making things easy to do. For example, keep a bottle of Vitamin C and Zinc next to your water bottle on your desk during flu season. You are much more likely to take them than if they are on a kitchen shelf or in your medicine cabinet.
Check your progress and adjust your behavior accordingly. Make time each week to evaluate your goals. Are you having success? If not, try injecting some smaller, incremental goals. Developing new habits is not always going to be easy. If they were easy it wouldn’t take reinforcement.
Self help is a huge deal. That’s the reason there are so many books published on the topic. It’s right up there with weight loss. Following these 5 ways to form new good habits will get you on the road to a brand-new improved you. Start today and invest in yourself.
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Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.
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As the old year fades into the sunset and the new one is ushered in, people all over the world will be indulging, not only in partying but also solemnly vowing to knuckle down this time to actively self-help with fill-in-the-blank. “Really! This time!,” you cry. But, to make permanent (and the kind you can really live with going forward) changes, you must make new habits. Here is a list of the top New Year’s resolutions year after year.
Getting in better physical shape. This is one we should all be doing and there is always room for improvement. Choose something you enjoy — running, walking, cycling, lifting, swimming, yoga; the list is endless. Physical fitness can be as frugal or expensive as you want. My favorites are running and walking (with the dog). I only shell out about $200/year in running and/or walking shoes. The walking shoes I currently have on order the Rockport Men’s Activflex Sport Perf Mudguard Walking Shoe model. That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Can’t wait to try them though. When you put in as many miles as the pooch and I do, you have to baby your feet.
Stop procrastinating. The largest obstacle keeping most people from closing in on their goals is the natural desire to relax and indulge in some frivolity rather than working hard. As soon as you get used to procrastinating it’s hard to avoid, so be prepared to put in a lot of work to change this normal tendency.
Eat healthier. We could all do a bit of cleaning up our eating habits. The good news is that access to better food choices is better than ever. Try making something new like my low-carb carbonara pictured above. Eating out is fun but spending time in the kitchen will save you money (so you can pay for that workout gear) and allow you to control the ingredients. Go with whole wheat bread rather than fluffy white. James Hamblin of The Atlantic says, “As many eaters of bread came to understand that white bread is a nutritional equivalent of Pixy Stix—the nutritious, fibrous shell of the wheat having been removed, leaving us with only the inner starch, which our bodies almost instantly turn into sugar—it needed some rebranding.” Eat more fruit. Incorporate nuts into your daily eating regimen. Try a new diet. Experiment with new ways of preparing unprocessed food. For example, I’ve recently been making chicken and beef jerky as well as low, low-cost dog treats in my food dehydrator. And remember, if you are on a weight-loss journey, it is not all about compulsive overeating, it is also what you eat.
Lose weight (if you need to). There is a multitude of diets out there. Some work and some don’t. I personally have used intermittent fasting with success. It is restrictive in the sense that you have to wait for mealtime, but the great thing is that when you do eat, you are not restricted like you are on the Atkin’s Diet.
Expand your confidence and take some chances. Most people don’t exercise their confidence enough and this limits their potential. This is true in the workplace and out of it. In fact, in most cases, workers that display confidence are the ones that get ahead. This is true of taking chances as well. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. The best time to start the new you is the beginning of next year when New Year’s Eve is in the rearview mirror. Try making a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and go for it; kind of like a bucket list.
Bring in more money. It’s never enough, is it? The more you make, the more the government will “confiscate” to pay for things like Biden’s bloated Build Back Better bill. While it is important to strike a work/play balance in life, there’s a lot to be said for having a cash cushion. It is never too soon to plan (and save) for retirement. Take up a new side hustle while keeping your day job. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And while we are on the topic of bringing home more bacon, consider improving your credit score.
Stop smoking. This one is a classic. Unfortunately, it is one of the hardest to achieve. I should know; I quit about 35 years ago. While we are on the topic, the jury is still out on vaping. Whichever habit is in question, it’s too much money for too little return. Besides, it really looks dumb. What, are you a whale coming up to the surface to vent your blow hole?
Indulge in more quality sleep. Most people don’t get enough. The recommended amount is 7-8 hours. Do you get that much? According to livescience.com, “About 65 percent of Americans get a “healthy” amount of sleep, or at least 7 hours a night, while 35 percent get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.” My Garmin 235 watch syncs with the computer and one of the things it does is generate a graph of my sleeping time and pattern. It’s very eye-opening.
Read more books. Everything competes for our attention today — the internet, TV, radio, the cell phone. Books may seem old school but they educate, entertain, and improve the function of our brains more than anything electronic. And if you use your local library, it’s a (gasp!) free activity! One of my best reads this past year was Dennis Prager’s Rational Bible: Exodus. That said, electronic still has its place, and it can be portable. I favor the Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet because it comes with the Kindle app built-in. Here’s a list of my book reviews.
Get out of debt. We’ve already touched on the topic of making more money. If you are in debt (and who isn’t) it is just as important to change that. Look into consolidating your loans. Move credit card balances to a lower-interest card. Ditch your bank and join a credit union; you will get favorable interest rates on savings and loans. All these small changes add up.
Learn a new language. This is good for your brain health and communication skills. For example, I am fluent in Spanish. Living in Texas, that’s a good thing. Learn a language that you can use locally. Use it or lose it, as they say.
Adopt a pet. We’ve got 4 adopted dogs. Science tells us that pets are good for us so we must really be doing great! Even petting your dog has been shown to lower blood pressure. Of course, having a pet involves responsibility so be ready for that.
Take up a new hobby. As an example, my favorite is woodworking. Some people even parlay this into a side gig.
Hopefully, this list of top New Year’s resolutions will get you off to a great start. Share it with your friends and social media! Enjoy a bit of frivolity as the old year drifts away.
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Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.