resolutions

Goodbye New Year’s Resolutions, Hello Monthly Habits

If you’re like most people, you don’t even think about making New Year’s resolutions anymore. It’s just too depressing to feel like a failure when you can’t stay on that diet, or continue that exercise program. Maybe you’re motivated for the first week or two, but then there’s the Superbowl party when you blow it by pigging out on nachos and beer. And who the heck wants to go running when it’s freezing outside? Well, here’s a way to have resolutions that stick. Say goodbye to New Year’s resolutions and hello to monthly habits.

Keeping a goal for a month is not nearly as daunting as keeping up with a goal for an entire year. And the thing is, experts agree that if you can stick to a habit for 28 days, the habit becomes permanent. You no longer think of it as a difficult task. It just becomes part of your daily routine.  Even February has 28 days and the other months will give you a couple of extra days to really make sure that habit is a keeper.

So, how do you come up with 12 habits rather than 1 impossible-to-keep resolution?  Well, how about breaking up that big impossible-to-keep resolution into 12 mini-very-possible-habits?

For example, let’s say the big resolution – the one we never keep – is to “lose weight.”  Once we overeat at that party, we figure we’ve failed and continue to raid the pantry, stuffing our faces with every fattening thing we can find. Our diet is over. Maybe next January we’ll try again, or maybe not.

Instead, this year, we try easy goals. All we have to do is this one thing each month.  Here are some examples:

  • January: Drink 8 cups of water every day
  • February: Drink skim milk instead of whole milk
  • March: Exercise 30 minutes 4 times a week
  • April: Bring your lunch to work instead of eating out
  • May: Have fruit for dessert
  • June: Train for a 5K race
  • July: Skip the seconds
  • August: Ride your bike to work
  • September: Eat fish or veggie-burgers instead of red meat
  • October:  Skip the soda
  • November:  Only have low-calorie snacks
  • December:  Buy yourself some new holiday clothes to show off your new healthy body

Of course, one key thing to consider is to keep these new habits realistic. Do not attempt to do too much, too soon.  Of course, you can do more than your designated goal-of-the-month, but really focus on the monthly goal. Anything else will just be gravy… uh… icing on the cake… uh  (why are all these sayings, high-calorie?) how about…  anything else will be extra credit!

Yes, extra-credit. Which gets me to my next piece of advice. Besides making the habits realistic, try to make them fun! How, you ask? Make keeping the goals into a game. Give yourself points each day you accomplish your designated goal. Play with a partner or a friend and see who can get the most points. And, yes, then you get “extra credit” for doing more than what’s “assigned” for the month.

When the next month rolls around, your focus should be on your new goal. You don’t have to keep doing what you were doing the previous month, but you may find you want to. Once I switched to skim milk, I found I preferred it to 2% and forget about whole milk! I don’t even like it anymore.

Keep your points for the whole month. If you blow it one day, don’t consider the game over. Make up for it the next day. Do double-duty or get some “extra credit” to get back on track. Try to stick with your monthly goal for at least 28 days. If you’ve skipped a day here or there, don’t feel like you have to start all over from day 1. Be flexible, but try and do it for at least 28 days. After that, you may find that you’ve formed a lifetime habit.

Another great thing about having 12 monthly habits rather than one big resolution? It means 12 celebrations! That’s right. At the end of each month, reflect on your successes, take a look at your plan, and have a late-night celebration. Count up your points, take some pictures, plan the fun you’ll have with your next goal, and make a toast! Happy New Month!

Guest blogger Yvette Francino is the author of The Laptop Dancer Diaries: A Mostly True Story about Finding Love Again. She currently is hosting The Love Project at http://singleagainonlinediary.blogspot.com where she gives monthly exercises designed to give and receive love.