A Happiness Expert's 3-Step Plan For Forming New Habits This Year
It's officially the second week of January, which means many health goals are well underway. Others have inevitably been abandoned.
If you've already ditched your resolution this year, don't beat yourself up—the "all-or-nothing" nature of resolutions is impractical and unsustainable. (After all, 365 consecutive days of action or avoidance is difficult, even for the most disciplined among us.)
If your goal is to create lasting and noticeable change this year, implementing healthy habits is a much more realistic and effective route. Here, we've outlined a foolproof plan from happiness expert and New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin that will help you create new habits in 2023 in three simple steps:
Be realistic about what works for you.
Just because a habit works for someone else does not mean it's the best course of action for you. By being honest with yourself about the timing and circumstances of your desired habit, you can optimize your chances of making it a part of your regular routine.
"There's no magic one-size-fits-all solution for how you want to set up a habit, whether you do it in the morning, afternoon, or night," Rubin says in a mindbodygreen podcast episode. "People are going to differ on when they feel most productive, creative, and energetic."
For example: Let's say your goal is to improve your overall nutrition and longevity efforts. To achieve this goal, you decide to form the daily habit of taking a multivitamin (if this is also your goal, you can find our roundup of the best multivitamins here).
You might think taking your multi first thing in the morning is ideal since many others take their supplements at that time. However, if you have a sensitive stomach or struggle with digestive concerns, you may not be able to tolerate a high-potency multi (or any other supplement) on an empty stomach.
If this is the case, you could consider pairing the habit of supplementation with a meal (bonus: Many vitamins included in a multi are fat-soluble, which means they're best absorbed and activated when taken with food, so this timing is especially beneficial).
Celebrate small wins.
Our brains seek reward, which means even the smallest accomplishment (like taking your multi each morning with breakfast) gives your brain a hit of dopamine—the hormone of reward and motivation. This dopamine boost causes your brain to seek the same reward, which helps enhance your ability to build and maintain the habit.
"[Habits] put a behavior on autopilot," Rubin explains. "Research suggests that about 40% of what we do every day1 is governed by habits, so if you have habits that work for you, it's going to be a lot easier to be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative."
If you've taken your multi every day for a week, bask in a moment of gratitude and excitement. If you've forgotten to take it for a few days in a row but remembered today, that's worth celebrating as well!
Practice patience and self-compassion.
Self-love is key to the habit-forming process! Contrary to popular belief, being hard on yourself will never yield desired results as quickly as being kind to yourself when you forget to do your habit.
Rather than beating yourself up if you miss a day, Rubin suggests reframing your mindset by saying, "There's nothing wrong with me. I've learned something about myself. This tool doesn't work. Now, I'm going to try a different tool."
Science suggests it takes nine weeks (not 21 days, as previously thought) to form a habit. That's a lot of time to put yourself down or build yourself up—is your self-talk compassionate and supportive or cruel and discouraging?
If you follow these foolproof steps, your target goal will become an automatic habit in no time! And hey, anything beats a resolution you've deserted before June, right?
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.