I don’t have a great track record with keeping my New Years Resolutions. Waking up to the brisk morning air on the first day of a new year brings optimism and a renewed commitment to self disciple. But I have found that within a few months I have a hard time even remembering what my resolutions were.
This year has been different in that regard. I set a resolution on the evening of December 31, 2021 and I have kept it up every day since. A 330-day streak! And the changes it has made in my mental and physical health have been wonderfully profound. I want to share what I think was the secret to my success this year.
When we fail to create lasting healthy habits science says it is not a reflection of our lack of abilities, but rather because many times our resolutions are missing some key ingredients.
So in late 2021, while submerged in the funk that was everything COVID, I decided to study what I could learn about the science of habits. I reckoned that if I could replace just one unhealthy habit with a single healthy habit that the changes might just make me smile. 😊
I don’t know about you, but to me the world, and our country more acutely, seems turbulent and chaotic like no other time I can remember. And I have noticed that when I delve into news or political discourse it never leaves me feeling good.
As I work more on observing my feelings I noticed that physically it will leave my chest feeling tight and interesting it would make my whole body feel a little cold. Like a slight, lasting, uncontrollable shiver on a cold winters day. Mentally it would leave me feeling lost, frustrated, and vulnerable.
On New Years Eve 2021 I made the decision to replace my morning habit of consuming news with a practice my wife shared with me, the 5-Minute Journal. We use the iPhone app version of the 5-Minute Journal, but it is available in a paper version as well. The journal lives up to its name of just taking 5 minutes.
Here is what the process looks like for me upon waking:
- The app opens showing me highlights of past entries and/or pics which make me reflect on my amazing life.
- When I hit the “Start Today’s Entry” button a positive quote or growth challenge greets me.
- Next it asks for “3 things I am grateful for?”
- Following that it asks “What will I do to make today great?”
- Finally it prompts me for my “Daily Affirmation” – something short that helps reinforce in me who I want to be.
Eleven months in how has this single habit improved my life?
- I am not missing looking at the news at all. I did for the first week or so and then… nope.
- I have not been getting that tension / tightness in my chest feeling I used to have almost daily. Is that a physical sign that it helped me be less anxious?
- I don’t want for things nearly as much as I used to. I feel genuinely content with my life and I’m not looking for a purchase or new shiny object to make me feel happy.
- Overall I feel more care-free and I have less of a tendency to jump to judgment about people and things around me. I find I am more of a curious observer and I like that mindset.
Upon reflection of my 2022 new year’s resolution experience I have learned two main lessons. One, it is important to set up a single, well-focused, resolution that I can accomplish. And two, it is critical to stick with it long enough to see the positive changes it is bringing to varied aspects of my life. As we approach new years eve 2022 I hope you will find peace around the life you want to live.