New Beginnings Start With Intention, And Last With Habit
ONLY 4% of individuals successfully keep their New Year resolutions after June. Just 6 months into the year.
Well that is at least half of the year, it is better than nothing, right? Sure, that's right! But if you want to make a lasting change to your life you are going to have to be consistent in your time, energy, and actions.
Potential reasons as to why such a low level of resolutions are kept throughout the ENTIRE year and beyond, could be a lack of intention & habit.
Intention = Plan
Intention refers to how you plan to conduct your time, energy, and actions, after having defined the goals you want to achieve. Being intentional with these aspects, will increase your productivity towards your goals. You can do this by being deliberate with how you plan and proceed throughout the day.
A specific technique that you can use to help you move through life intentionally is called: implementation intention. This enables you to change your behaviour, by planning a ‘if I am doing this, then I will do this’ situation and then acting on it when the situation arrives. An example, of this is : ‘when I come home from doing the weekly shop; I will go for a walk’.
Intention does not only help you focus on your goals, but it also shows you how to appreciate people you have in your life, by being mindful of your most important relationships. You also experience an increase in self-awareness and abundance, due to understanding why your most important relationships are significant to you. This awareness and gratitude only helps improve your wellbeing and life.
New Year Resolutions To New Year Intentions
Around the end of the year, we make new year resolutions, to set goals for the following year. For the most part they are inspiring. However, the most common new year resolutions I hear are: I want to lose weight and spend less money.
A lot of people will hear these and think “Good for you, you want change!”. However, the underlying message I hear behind them are: ‘I don’t like my body’; ‘I don’t love my body’; ‘I can’t afford it’; or even worse ‘I do not love myself as I am’.
You see, with some individual’s their new year resolutions are born out of a place of lack, where for example they think ‘If I lose weight, I will be able to accept and love myself’. What makes you think that losing weight will result in true contentment? I’ll save you the time... it won’t!
This may not be entirely true for all individuals in this situation, but for most this is evidence as to how they are operating in a mode of conditional love. As Louise Hay put it: ‘You’ve been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens’.
Therefore, a lot of new year resolutions (associated with diet culture specifically) have this negative underlying thought or belief of: ‘I am not pretty enough’ or ‘I am not slim enough’. And some of you may turn around to me and say ‘Well, Sammi these beliefs are my motivation, I won’t do it otherwise’.
The power of thoughts, words, and self-compassion come into play here. I am not saying that you shouldn’t have these aims. I am saying that re-phrasing your resolutions with intention (with the best version of yourself in mind) is a kinder way to approach oneself.
Let's flip these resolutions into positive rooted intentions. So:
‘I want to lose weight because I feel less worthy when I am not slim’
‘I want to look after my body by eating nourishing foods that make me feel good and do exercise that I enjoy, because I respect and love my body’
‘I want to spend less money, because I don’t earn enough’
‘I will start a side hustle, to help me live the life I want to lead’
These intentions will motivate you towards a new beginning, because there is a goal that you have stated you want to achieve. In order to succeed consistently, however, healthy, positive habits must be formed.
If you are interested in how to set powerful intentions using meditation, follow the link to Deepak Chopra’s website: https://chopra.com/articles/5-steps-to-setting-powerful-intentions
Habits: Automatic Behaviours
Well, let’s start off with defining what a habit actually is: an automatic behaviour that occurs in a situation where such behaviour has taken place previously.
Research has shown that the stronger a habit is the less likely it is that a person's intention alone will have an impact on their behaviour.
There are 4 stages of a habit and they are as follows:
1. Cue: This is something emotionally or physically present in the environment (e.g. feeling stressed) that makes your brain conduct a behaviour, which results in a reward.
2. Craving: Cravings motivate habits to continue, as it is the change in the state of the internal or external environment that people want (e.g. because you are stressed you crave chocolate).
3. Response: This is the habit being performed, it can either be an action or thought (e.g. you eat chocolate).
4. Reward: The previous step provides a reward to the person, and serves as the goal of the habit (e.g. the good tasting chocolate distracts you from your stressful thoughts and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside!), and when the cue crops up again the same cycle occurs.
Now, you are probably thinking ‘Well if habits are a cycle, how do we even end an existing bad habit or form a new good one?’.
Well, here are some potential ways you can do this:
How to Break a Bad Habit
Cue - Make it invisible.
Craving - Reframe it as unattractive.
Response - Make it difficult.
Reward - Make it unsatisfying.
How to Create a Good Habit
Cue - Make it obvious.
Craving - Make it attractive.
Response - Make it easy.
Reward - Make it satisfying.
Another way you can form a new habit, is by combining a cue associated with the new habit with an existing habit (e.g. making the bed) and daily routine.
So, for example, if you wanted to exercise on a daily basis and your routine was:
Get out of bed
Make the bed
Have some breakfast
You can add an additional step of placing your exercise clothes (cue) on your bed, to remind you to exercise.
An example of this would be the following:
Get out of bed
Make the bed & lay out exercise clothes onto bed
Have some breakfast
An important note to make though, is to ensure that once the new behaviour is conducted, place the cue elsewhere or out of sight, to ensure the cue does not lose its reminding ability.
Combining Habit Stacking & Implementation Intention
To increase the likelihood of a new habit forming, pair both habit stacking and implementation intention (mentioned earlier) together.
As a part of your morning routine, you would put walking boots by the front door, after having had breakfast (habit stacking & visual cue).
When you go food shopping, and see the walking boots by the front door when entering the house, you will be reminded of the ‘If I am coming back from a food shop, I will go for a walk’ plan (implementation intention).
So, as a result you would go for a walk.
‘But what is the point of forming new positive and healthy habits?’ you might ask. To put it frankly, healthy habits improve your wellbeing, and your positive habits determine your successes in life. Both of which contribute to your life satisfaction and happiness.
A few habits that could help improve the quality of your life are:
Eating healthy fats- these provide you with essential nutrients in the purest form (e.g. avocados, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil). All of which support your gut.
Exercising in a way that is fun for you is so important, as you will be more motivated to move your body on a daily basis, and if not daily, weekly, it is at least something. If you have not found exercise you enjoy yet, maybe consider yoga, dancing, or a team sport.
Nature strolls or walks- exposing yourself to sunlight and nature where possible has been seen to improve people’s mental health and mood, due to an increase in serotonin.
I love to walk in nature and near bodies of water when I am stressed, it helps to calm me down. So, maybe try it and see whether it helps you! Picture yourself having a lovely walk here:
There are many more habits you can develop to transform your life. See the following link for some ideas: https://www.lifehack.org/673363/healthy-habits-that-will-improve-your-overall-well-being-and-make-you-feel-good.
New beginnings are a time, where individuals decide they want change and start implementing new activities and habits into their lives, to live their life in a healthier, fulfilling, enjoyable way. The New Year is notorious for such a thing!
So, using intention, the knowledge of the 4 stages of habit to your advantage; habit stacking; implementation intention; and both combined can help you start a new chapter easier!
A new beginning gives you a chance to explore ways in which you can develop for the better, to enhance your life.
Of course you do not have to wait for a new year to start new intentions and habits, and get rid of old ones.
The time is always NOW. Now is the time to do it, if you crave a healthier, positive change in your physical, mental, and in some cases spiritual self, start making small changes, and your life will improve.
You CAN do this!
Sammi at Unwind Yoga Studio x
PS: The way we help our students improve their wellbeing here at Unwind Yoga Studio is through yoga & wellbeing practices. We offer a gentle, caring and non-judgemental environment for you to come and try yoga, and maybe find a new habit that changes your life forever. It did for us!
Unwind Trials: www.unwindyogastudio.com/introductory-offers
Discover Happy Habits, 2021, URL: https://discoverhappyhabits.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/#resolutions-success-failure
Mark Pettit, 2020: https://lucemiconsulting.co.uk/be-intentional/
Gardner, B., Corbridge, S., & McGowan, L. (2015). Do habits always override intentions? Pitting unhealthy snacking habits against snack-avoidance intentions. BMC psychology, 3(1), 1-9. URL:https://bmcpsychology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40359-015-0065-4
James Clear: https://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change
Kaushal, N., Rhodes, R. E., Spence, J. C., & Meldrum, J. T. (2017). Increasing physical activity through principles of habit formation in new gym members: a randomized controlled trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(4), 578-586. DOI 10.1007/s12160-017-9881-5. URL: https://academic.oup.com/abm/article/51/4/578/4643245?login=true