This new year, before you commit to being healthier and happier, commit to changing the world around you first. Here are six examples of ways to ensure you keep your new year’s resolution:
1. Before you buy a gym membership, find someone else to buy one with you. Their commitment will motivate you to keep exercising, just as your commitment will make it more likely they’ll stick with their promise to change. Even if they eventually stop going, you’ll have jumpstarted a new lifestyle.
2. Before you sign up for yoga and accessorize yourself with the perfect mat and exercise pants, ask your spouse to take on extra chores at home, or change your schedule at work so you have the time you need for personal improvement. The more the people around you support the change you want to make, the more likely that change will stick. Not only will they help you find the time and resources you need to make a lifestyle change, when others see us as the person we want to become, the more likely we are to embrace a new, better, identity.
3. Think about where you shop. Food courts are full of tempting scents that few of us can resist. Packing a healthy lunch, or frequenting healthier restaurants can do much to maintain a reasonable diet. Likewise, if trips to the mall mean credit card debt, find a substitute place to hang out when you’re needing a little emotional boost. Putting ourselves in environments that help us make better choices are always easier than finding the motivation to resist temptations that are too close at hand.
4. Make at least one new friend. Our peers influence our eating and exercise habits. Making a new friend who behaves in ways you’ve promised yourself to behave (like eating healthily or spending more time with family) increases the odds that your new year’s resolution will stick.
5. Change how far you live from your workplace. If that isn’t possible, try using public transit instead of driving. Anything you can do to spend less time in a car is a sure-fire way to increase your number of steps without being at the mercy of wearable tech to remind you to walk more.
6. Make your bedroom a sanctuary of calm. Few or us sleep enough (that means at least 7 hours a night for adults without young children). Few of us, however, make our bedrooms places which promote good sleep hygiene. We bring our phones to bed, and then they ping all night long. Or we tolerate a snoring spouse. Maybe the cat keeps smothering us. Whatever the distraction, no amount of motivation for change is going to make our lives better if we are sleep deprived.
The better your world is at helping you make and sustain changes the more likely this January’s new year’s resolution is actually going to still be a part of your life this coming December.
Author: Michael Ungar, PhD is the Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dalhousie University, and author of Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success (Sutherland House, 2019)