How to Develop Healthy Habits for 2024

As the new year approaches, many people naturally turn their attention to New Year’s resolutions and lifestyle changes they want to adopt by Jan. 1. Unfortunately, most of these well-intentioned goal setters might actually be setting themselves up for failure without even knowing it.

A study done by Scranton University found that only 19% of individuals keep their resolutions. Another study done by OnePoll concluded that most resolvers abandon their resolutions by February.

These are a few key reasons people don’t follow through with their commitments:
  1. Their goals aren’t specific enough. Many opt in for “exercise more” instead of “exercise twice a week.”
  2. They treat a marathon like a sprint. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous reason. For someone who has been drinking coffee for years, it might be hard to abandon it altogether. An alternative to “quitting coffee for one year” could be replacing coffee with tea (perhaps chaga-infused tea) on the weekends. Then, this person could slowly add another day every few months. In three months, this person might replace coffee with tea three days out of the week instead of two.
  3. They don’t know their “why.” It’s common for people to commit to a healthier lifestyle without knowing why they decided to in the first place. Is a healthy lifestyle important so you can play with your kids on the playground? Is it important so you can be more focused at work? No matter what it is, it’s crucial to nail down your “why” prior to making the commitment. Motivation will only get you so far. Reminding yourself of your “why” will help you stay committed on days you want to throw in the towel.

Above all reasons, social worker and psychotherapist Amy Morin says people don’t keep their resolutions simply because they are not ready to make a long lasting change by Jan. 1. In Psychology Today, she writes, “When people launch their resolution on January 1st, [people] are making a change based on a calendar date when they think they are prepared to change their lives. This is the real reason most resolutions fail.” 

We put so much pressure on changing our lives by a certain date that we fail to realize we’re not mentally and emotionally prepared enough to change when that date actually comes. But don’t be discouraged just yet. For those yearning for a healthier lifestyle in 2024 and beyond, there is hope! 

Consider making these adjustments:

  1. Focus on who you are becoming, not necessarily what you’re doing. In his book To Hell with the Hustle, Jefferson Bethke writes about focusing on identity rather than activity. For instance, rather than developing a resolution to “run a marathon,” consider committing to “becoming a dedicated runner.” Making this simple mindset shift takes immense pressure off yourself and brings deeper benefits than the former.
  2. Establish formations for the long haul. In Hustle, Bethke also introduces the difference between goals and formations: “Goals are about what practices I’m doing,” and “formations are who I am becoming through the practices I’m doing.” Goals (or resolutions) have a finish line, while formations don’t. Goals are linear (like a straight line), while formations resemble a circle. Goals are about results, while formations are about a process. This adjustment also goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Once you’re able to focus on identity instead of activity, you can come up with formations (or habits) that will help you be the person you want to become. Think back to our previous example of someone who has decided to become a dedicated runner instead of resolving to run one marathon this coming year. Though the runner might not have run a marathon in the first year, they would have developed formations (example: running at least 5 miles each week) that would enable them to run multiple marathons in a few years’ time. Formations free up goals to become byproducts of the lifestyle you’re already trying to achieve. 
  3. Habit stack. Upon establishing your newfound formations, consider attaching them to pre-existing habits you already have. If you’re committed to becoming an avid reader, consider reading a chapter of a book while you drink your morning coffee (or chaga). If you want to exercise three times a week, consider reserving those workout times.

Remember, we are the sum of our habits. What a sobering thought (but also a freeing one knowing we aren’t the sum of our failed New Year’s Resolutions)! That being said, let’s raise a glass to 2024 and commit to developing (and nurturing) habits that last not just one year, but a lifetime. 

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