2016: Feeling ‘Better Than Before’

what i’ve learned about resolutions and habits

I have some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is: I’ve neglected my website. The good news is: I haven’t neglected working on my habits and theme for 2016. I purposely waited until this very day to share my theme for this year. Why? Today is the one-year anniversary of when I adopted and successfully started working towards my Theme of 2015: Control.

As I wrote in my previous post, making New Year’s Resolutions are tough. Sometimes, resolutions aren’t resolute enough and that’s why 90 percent of our resolutions fail. If you make the resolution to “eat healthy” you aren’t really going off of anything. Your resolutions, or goals, need to be more personalized and instinctual. Instead, your resolution can be to “eat more fruits and vegetables during lunch.” This can be an easier habit to track and offers more of a structured goal for you to follow.

My previous post put a big kibosh on resolutions. I don’t like them. I don’t like that kind of pressure —no one does! You don’t need to wait until January 1 to start improving your life. As I was saying, resolutions aren’t the answer: if you really want to see change, you need to form habits. Habits are automated responses that you learn through repetition. Your prefrontal cortex, a region in your brain, performs these moment by moment reactions. For example, ever wonder why you can drive and think about a hundred things at once? Your prefrontal cortex puts your brain into “automated mode,” and you are able to think about what errands you need to run after work or let your mind wander while driving.

Forming habits takes a lot of hard work — and practice. The fact that it takes 21 days to form a habit is a common myth. True experts say that it takes up to 18 to 254 days to form a habit. Doing so all depends on your willpower, self control, and patience! It’s different for every person. In my case, it took less than a year to form a habit. After seeing someone for almost a year, I am able to control my thinking and curb my anxiety without much effort. Seeing my psychologist has become a routine, and utilizing the tools I have learned have become a routine also.

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My theme for 2016: health

After some reflection, I have chosen my theme for 2016: Health. I have two overarching goals this year that encompass the overall theme of Health:

  • See my psychologist once every two weeks and continue to maintain control over my anxiety and depression
  • Go to the gym three times a week or 12 times a month and take a spinning class on Fridays to improve my physical fitness levels (and look good in my wedding dress)

I have chosen this theme for a few reasons. The first, and most obvious reason, is that I will be planning a wedding for the next eight months. Planning a wedding, although thrilling and indescribable, is very stressful. It is key that I continue to see my psychologist so I am able to learn more tools and continue to work towards managing my anxiety during this fun yet intensified time.

My other reason is a little more deep-rooted. Throughout my life, I have struggled with self-esteem and body image issues —which makes sense, as both of those correlate with anxiety and depression. I have always “hated” how I looked, and would take time to look at myself and point out flaws that I noticed from my chicken pox scars to my stomach. I am never fully satisfied. My goal this year is to work on that and learn to love my body and how I look. I made the goal to go to the gym three times a week, or 12 times a month, in order to work on my physical strength, and improve my body.

With the combination of improving my mental health and loving myself on the inside as well as the outside, I hope to achieve my overarching goals and my overall theme of Health in 2016.

In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin says: “The key to habits is decision making, or the lack of decision making” and “habits eliminate the need for self-control.” When we change our habits, we change our lives. The first step to changing our habits is getting to know our tendencies, and then afterwards, we can monitor our habits and how well we do at reaching our goals.

One crucial thing I keep telling myself is that I need to cut myself some slack. It is totally OK to goof off once in a while and let yourself enjoy the little things in life. That’s why I am not making a personalized “healthy eating” goal. The truth is, I eat pretty healthy, but sometimes, I let myself cheat a little bit. I enjoy pasta and I enjoy carbs. I love food, and I love experimenting with food. I think that’s perfectly OK. I have amazing self-control when it comes to healthy eating.

Ian, however, doesn’t, and that makes it a challenge at home. It’s a good challenge! When Ian makes brownies or cookies, I will have one or two, and he will eat the rest. I decided that I don’t really need to fine-tune my healthy eating habits, but my exercising and mental habits still need some work.

I am excited to keep working towards my goals and work towards meeting my theme for 2016. Rubin’s Better than Before is insightful and I am learning new things about habits and the way our minds work in every page. I look forward to sharing some of those facts with you, and encourage that you pick up a copy. It’s always good to work towards a goal or forming a new habit, and find that you feel better than before.