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Good resolutions? Yes, you can!

How many New Year's resolutions have you made in your life? An how many have you successfully accomplished? Right! Chances are high that your 2022 resolutions sound somewhat similar.

The science of habits

When you woke up this morning, what did you do first? Did you go straight to the coffee machine, did you check your emails or did you hop in the shower? Did you brush your teeth before or after breakfast? And when you got home from work, did you plop down in front of the tv or did you lace your sneakers and go for a run? Most of the choices we make throughout the day feel like well-considered decisions, but they are not. They are habits.

Whether you want to exercise more, quit smoking, eat healthier, drink less, reduce your stress levels, etc. it’s all about creating new habits or changing old ones. Changing your behaviour doesn’t happen overnight, but if you do it the right way you will make it past Valentine’s Day and create the long-lasting change you are after. 

The power of habit loops

Habits emerge because our brains are always on the lookout for efficient ways to save effort. We have hundreds of habits, many of which we don’t even remember how they were created. Charles Duhigg explains in his bestseller book ‘The power of habit’ that new habits depend on the following three-step loop:

  1. The cue: a trigger for your brain that tells it which habit to use.
  2. The routine: how a habit influences what you do, think or feel.
  3. The reward: which helps us determine how valuable the habit is and whether it’s worth remembering or not.

Find a cue, define a reward

If you want to start exercising in the morning, it’s essential that you find a simple cue like placing your sports clothes next to your bed, setting your alarm an hour early or finding an exercise buddy. You don’t need all of these cues, one is enough. But, the more cues you try, the faster you’ll find one that works for you. 

Next, define a clear reward:

like a midday snack or a great feeling after collecting your kilometres. The cue triggers the routine you want to develop—in this case exercising in the morning. Science shows that a cue and a reward are not enough for a new habit to last. You need to allow yourself to crave the reward, as cravings are the driver of habits.

Studies also show that the best way to implement a New Years’ resolution is to write it down as a formula. Commit to your plan in writing and post it where you will see it! Something like this:

In 2022 when I see ‘my running clothes next to my bed’ (cue), I will go for a ‘morning run’ (behaviour) in order to get ‘that great feeling and start my day full of energy’ (reward).

Now it’s up to you!

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