The New Year is a time when many of us put our habits under a microscope and consider what we should do differently to be happier, healthier and feeling on top form.
At Zenergos we are all about building good habits for an energised life and I’d like to share with you some top tips to stay on track.
But first, why do these New Year’s Resolutions or healthier habits that we commit to doing, generally fall by the way side within weeks of being set. Understanding this is fundamental to succeeding this time round.
Much of the answer lies in the fact that to create a new habit needs a high level of willpower and this comes from the most easily exhaustible part of our brain – just underneath our forehead – the Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC), or our brains’ brain.
We see this in action every day.
For example, have you ever woken up in the morning and thought ‘Right this evening when I get back from work, I’m not going to reach for a beer and slob out in front of the TV, instead I shall go for a run’. But then the evening comes, we are worn out after a full day at work. Our pre-frontal cortex has been busy making decisions and solving problems and is now completely knackered and when it is, our willpower fails and our old habits take over and guess what? We reach for the beer and the remote control.
Habits, by the way, are run by a completely different brain structure, the Basal Ganglia, (Emotional Brain), which unlike the PFC, is always full of energy. So:
Success tip one – plan your new habit around your willpower
To ensure we succeed in building these new habits and sticking to our resolutions, consider how much willpower this new habit will need.
If it needs a lot, then plan to do it when your prefrontal cortex is not completely shattered. For example if you are committing to take more exercise, do it early on in the day and not in the evening after a long day at work.
Also if you make sure your habit is achievable and realistic, then you won’t be overloading your brain in the first place.
Success tip two – make sure the new habit gives you the same reward as your old one
Old habits are hard to break but easier to replace. When you swap out an old habit make sure that the new one gives you the exact same reward as the old one, this is really important.
In his book The Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg, backed up by research from MIT, has found that at the core of every habit is a neurological loop that consists of three parts a Cue, a Routine and a Reward. For example in our earlier ‘reaching for a beer’ habit, the Cue is getting home from work, the Routine is the behaviour of reaching for the beer and the Reward is feeling relaxed and de-stressed after a hard day at work.
In order to stick to our New Years’ resolutions, we need to: firstly identify the Cue to any unhealthy habits (or routines) we are trying to replace, secondly understand what Reward we are craving and then thirdly try a different Routine (or behaviour) that will give you the same reward.
In the above example, the reason you might fail, is that going for a run, won’t necessarily give you the relaxed feeling you are craving. But maybe a hot bath or a massage would?
Success tip three – the key to success is in the planning
Old habits die hard. Research shows that it takes anywhere from 28 to 66 days to create a new habit, so you need to be in for the long haul.
Key to success is in the planning. Plan what you are going to do and when you are going to do it, in your diary, weeks out into the future.
For example, if healthy eating is your resolution, plan your meals a week ahead, plan when you will shop and prepare the food.
Also plan for your Cues, for example if you know that at 3pm every afternoon your Cue is tiredness and the Reward you crave is energy, which has you wondering off to the vending machine. Good planning will mean that you have healthy snacks in work, ready to give you the energy Reward you crave.
Success tip four – put your habits under the microscope more often
Putting your habits under the microscope is a really good idea and something we don’t do often enough. My final tip is rather than do this once a year, examine how you are living your life on a monthly, even weekly basis. Are your habits adding to your health, vitality and wellbeing or are they draining you of energy, leaving you feeling exhausted and in bad shape?
Whatever new habits you choose to build, on behalf of team Zenergos, we would like to wish you all a happy and energised 2017.