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Want to keep those New Year’s resolutions? Here’s a how-to guide.

How small changes (not big ones) and consistency (not perfection) can give you an edge


 

This story originally appeared at Pharmacy Practice+.

‘Tis the season! A season of celebrating… and stressing, giving…and indulging, family…and more family. But whether we love the holidays or just endure them, many of us see the new year as an opportunity for a fresh start.

There’s some evidence to back up using the New Year as a kick-starter for behaviour change—studies indicate people are about 10 times more likely to follow through with a resolution made at New Year’s than those made at other times of year. Unfortunately, the science also suggests that old habits die hard, and many of us only keep up our new behaviours for a few months.

Why is this and what can we learn from the science of resolutions? Our whiteboard explores:

So that’s a bit about the science of resolutions. Now what?

Below is my back-to-basics, old-school, no-magic-pill-included starter kit. I’ve included big-picture topics—things like eating, sleeping, moving, thinking and social capital—since efforts in any one of these will have ripple effects throughout the others. It’s like a behaviour cascade.

And the changes don’t have to be grand in scale. As Kelly McGonigal says, “People often get lost thinking they have to change everything all at once. But small changes can pave the way for bigger changes.”

To start off the kit, here is my rough-and-ready info graphic (click here for larger version):

Instead of thinking of your resolution in terms of success and failure, maybe treat this behaviour change thing like an experiment … a better life experiment?

The following package of whiteboards, infographics, podcasts and curations is meant to help get the “better life ball” rolling. You’ll notice some key themes and maybe some new terms throughout: Lots of tweaking and nudging, choice-architecture, allowing (even embracing?) imperfection. Hopefully there will be a little of what we call, cognitive dissonance and some “Whaaaaaat?” moments to help you change it up in 2016.

Stress less & think better: The single most important thing you can do for your stress

Eat better: What’s the best diet? Healthy eating 101

Move more and make your day harder: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? Check out this Make Your Day Harder site for more!

Drink less: A rethink of the way we drink

Stop smoking: The single best thing you can do to quit

Sleep better: Check out our EHL Sleeping section with great stuff on the science of sleep, sleep disorders, sleep hygiene and more.

And if you’re not in the resolution mood but you are feeling kind of down and out, don’t forget there are things you can do today, even right now, that might help you get through the post-holiday slump.

Here’s my two minutes on dealing with a crap week.

And finally, four of my favourite pieces of advice for 2016 and beyond:

  • Instead of looking at your life, look at your week.
  • Instead of committing to huge change, commit to small changes of your weekly habits.
  • Instead of focusing on motivation, focus on facilitation. What I mean by that is that willpower comes and goes, whereas embedding “nudges” into your week that work for you (know thyself) will be more sustainable. Maybe it’s booking weekly activity into your calendar, auto-ordering soda water (versus sugary pop or juice) when you are out, cutting up fruit and placing it at the front of the fridge, and so on. Review the “choice architecture” of your week and nudge yourself in the right way.
  • Think consistency, not perfection. Having a piece of chocolate and the occasional “fail” is good. We call this the 80/20 rule. If you are making the choice you want 80% of the time that is great. Throw in a little self love and emphasize resilience. Remember this is a Better Life Experiment!

Dr. Mike Evans is a doctor/professor/person working to bring the best evidence-based health information out of the clinic to wherever you are. Visit his website, EvansHealthLab.com.


 
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