Turns out, keeping up a habit is hard. Some 60% of us make New Year’s resolutions, and (not shockingly) only 8% keep them for the long haul.
While we’re already pretty groovy as is, we’re always up to grow and keep getting even more awesome. So we figured we’d check into the science and see how we might hack those habits to keep them sticking all year round.
Here’s what we found.
Habit hack #1: Make your goal enjoyable and rewarding
Why not make the new year about being good to yourself, rather than punishing yourself when you fall short? Research tells us what we already know: we run away from punishment and toward reward. If you want to get more hours of sleep at night, plan an enjoyable bedtime wind down routine (maybe a warm bath with a favorite book on your Kindle.)
Or, try the trendy method of “temptation bundling,” which pairs something you enjoy with something you want to do more of. So, for instance, you can only listen to your favorite podcast when you are on a walk. Or, if you’re trying to read more books in 2021, form a book club with your friends to make it a more shared experience.
Habit hack #2: Small wins make for the biggest gains
According to BJ Fogg, Ph.D., a behavior scientist who has been studying how habits are kept for nearly three decades and founder of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab, “tiny is mighty” when it comes to habit formation. Fogg found that people are more likely to form a new habit that doesn’t require too much motivation at first. So if you are trying to make meditation a daily practice, taking five minutes to yourself after you pour your morning tea or coffee (though even just two minutes will do!) can start you down the right path to forming a habit you’ll keep long term.
Habit hack #3: Hitch a new habit to an old one
There are lots of things we do every day without thinking much about them: making your bed, brewing your coffee, taking a shower, running the dishwasher at night, calling your partner to check in. We’ve done these things so many times, our brain doesn’t need to think much about them. You can take advantage of that autopilot mode by adding a new habit to one that is already second nature. For instance, if you want to drink more water, plan to drink an eight-ounce glass when you brush your teeth in the morning and evening (that’s 16 ounces toward your daily goal that you soon won’t have to think about). If you are trying to volunteer more in your community, get your friends to join you for a shift at the local food bank instead of catching up at the same coffee shop.
Habit hack #4: Come up with “if/then” plans
Research shows that people are more likely to stick to their goals in moments of pressure when they plan for them. So, for instance, if you’re trying to go to bed earlier but know you’ll get sucked into watching Schitt’s Creek after dinner, commit to turning off the TV after a set number of episodes. Knowing what you will do when temptation appears will help you stick to your goal long term.
Habit hack #5: Track your wins
Seeing how many days you did commit to your habit is far more motivating than dwelling on the days you didn’t. Don’t worry so much about breaking the chain. Perfection is the enemy of progress.
If you’re looking for practical ways to improve your habits this year, Amazon Care is offering a free, three-week Habit-Building Challenge full of achievable steps to begin forming better habits. And if speaking to a doctor, nurse, or nurse practitioner about your resolutions would be helpful, open the app to get started.