“Why am I writing a love letter to January?” you ask. I find humans to be exceptionally endearing in January. The influx of people at the gym, the total clearing of shelves at Trader Joe’s, the table of untouched desserts at work, and the friendlier faces. It’s a time of year when you can see the good in people. Everyone earnestly wants to better themselves in some way. Faced with a new year — we see an abundance of opportunities to do something and be something different.
People believe in themselves, and genuinely wish to make concrete changes to their life. I know that most people laugh at this, or get frustrated that they can’t use the leg press at L.A. Fitness because of all the “new year, new me” people. I on the other hand, find it quite beautiful.
This is my love letter to all those with a resolution for the new year. You are a badass. And there is no failure, because the fact that you took the first step to try to make a change is a huge accomplishment.
I think that this is where most people take the wrong turn. They set lofty goals that are not humanly-possible to achieve, and when they don’t see tangible progress, they get dejected. I’ve been there. The next thing you know you’re eating raw cookie dough out of that Toll House cylindrical tube. Which honestly, girl eat cookie dough whenever you want to. (Here’s a safe to eat cookie dough recipe – don’t get salmonella!)
So, as a girl with two therapists, two failed bullet journals, and an Fitbit with an uncharged battery, let me give you some unsolicited advice about maintaining your resolutions. As I am obviously the expert.
Well not to totally shit-talk myself — I have made huge changes to my life this year (yay for my two therapists) – but it’s because I learned something new. So here’s a couple tips that helped me to begin turn my life around.
1. You have to start incredibly small.
Seems simple, right? About those bullet journals – I had been creating monthly habit trackers. But I wasn’t tracking habits, I was evaluating my self-worth based on goals. In one day I wanted to walk 10,000 steps, drink 70 oz of water, sleep a perfect 8 hours, do a mindfulness activity, practice yoga, read for 30 minutes, take all my vitamins, not spend any money for once…
Most of this was trying to correct habits I already had, but didn’t like, by setting a goal to do the opposite. Here’s the secret: you can’t go straight from sitting for 8 hours a day at work to miraculously finding time and motivation to walk 10,000 steps. First just tell yourself that you’ll take a 15 minute walk after work, or stand up for five minutes every hour you’re at your desk.
2. Pick one.
Yeah, also very hard for me. Being a perfectionist, I wanted to correct it all. And I wanted to fill in all the pretty boxes with my new set of gel pens. But I wasn’t getting anywhere, and my progress was sporadic. In the book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg discusses the origins of habit research, the mechanisms of habits, and how to form new ones. The most important thing I took away is that you need to focus on a single habit. Yes, just ONE.
First work on the 10,000 steps, and once you’ve made that behavior consistent, work on the water consumption. By successfully changing the first habit, you will create momentum for addressing further behaviors.
3. Reward yourself.
I’m all about the positive reinforcement. If you are successful at staying consistent with the new behavior you are trying to create, rewarding yourself will teach your brain that good things will come from that habit. Say if you talk that 15 minute walk for five out of seven days of the week – you can splurge on dessert on Sunday, or take an extra hour to relax over the weekend instead of running errands. Just make sure that the reward isn’t something that you have easy access to all the time. Otherwise, it isn’t as salient of a reinforcer. I eat chocolate everyday, so I’m not going to choose chocolate as a reinforcer.
Now let me rewind a minute. I don’t hate bullet journals. In fact I still have one. But when it comes to the habit tracker, be careful. Either use it to identify which habit you think you should attempt to change or instead create a mood tracker. It is exciting to see that as you improve or create a new habit, your mood will increase. (Another reinforcer)
~Interrupting this blog with an important message~ Check out the end of this post for some links to layouts I like, as well as a PDF I created for you to use! And if you’re interested in more layouts, follow my friend @nat.ur.ally on Instagram!
Now take all this with a grain or two of salt. I’m not an expert. The last time I took a behavior modification course was in 2016. But take this to say that if you need a cheerleader, I am more than happy to root for you.
We are more powerful than we think, we just have to outsmart ourselves.
Bullet Journal Layouts