Tips to Start New Habits for 2023
Here we are again – the beginning of a new year. It’s that time when many of us are making resolutions, focusing on improving our health, and planning to incorporate new habits.
There’s nothing that dictates the beginning of a new year as the only time to start fresh. Why do we share a universal desire for doing new things at the start of a new year?
Making positive changes aligns well with the start of a fresh year.
I get it; I’m right there too. I’m making my list of new habits I’d like to add. This year, however, I feel a little more ahead of the game than I have in the past. I attribute this to not waiting for a fresh new year but building new habits over time . . . slowly.
As we begin a new year and beginning a new habit, everything is aligned! So let’s explore incorporating new habits.
Habits or Resolutions?
In order to reach goals and make positive changes, we obviously need to do something different from what we’ve been doing. Repeating the things that we’re already doing won’t create change.
And that’s where the exciting – and hard – part comes in!
I swore off new year resolutions a long time ago because all they did was make me feel like a failure when I wasn’t successful in seeing them through, which was most of the time. In my experience, making “resolutions” that include extreme changes to routines, eating habits, and health practices have rarely fulfilled the desired goals.
Resolutions feel massive – almost unattainable. Even the word feels heavy. Typically we state a resolution without any idea of what we need to do to make it a reality. The steps to get from the desire to the goal accomplishment are missing.
But forming, practicing, and integrating new HABITS – that’s something that feels doable.
When we work on creating a new habit, we’re more likely to feel successful. And successfully building a new habit begins with starting small and being consistent.
Be Kind to Yourself
Humans aren’t perfect. I know from personal experience! Being human includes trying new things and faltering, changing our minds, having good days and bad days, building new habits, feeling like failures, feeling accomplished. I experience all of these things regularly!
The important thing is to accept that we’re not perfect and not strive to be. Before beginning a new habit or practice, acknowledge that starting may follow a “two steps forward, one step back” pattern. Be kind to yourself when you have human experiences.
Although things may not proceed in textbook fashion when we’re building a new habit, that’s not a signal to stop or quit. It’s simply the normal process of beginning something new.
Here’s an example: I’m recommitting myself to the habit of regular strength exercise. Every day I have a back and forth conversation in my head about whether I “feel” like doing it or not. My mind comes up with all kinds of seemingly justifiable reasons that I should skip my exercise. Sometimes I listen to that and don’t exercise, and sometimes I ignore it or talk myself into doing the exercise. Sometimes, what it takes to get me there is to tell myself that today I’ll only do 10 minutes instead of 30. And, guess what? It does get me there.
Tips for Success
Ready to establish some new habits? There are a few things you can do to support your goals.
- Write down the new habits you’d like to integrate into your daily schedule or your life.
- Choose one or two new habits to start with.
- Break a new habit into small steps. See below for some examples.
- Set a regular time for your new habit. This helps the habit become some you do without really thinking about it because you know, for example, at 7:00 am you mediate, or at 4:00 pm you exercise.
- Plan! If you fail to plan you’re planning to fail. Starting a new exercise habit? Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Trying to say away from alcohol? Get rid of it, or at least move it to a place you won’t continually see it.
- If it helps you, find a way to be accountable.
Accountability Is Your Friend
Accountability can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be pretty annoying to have something or someone checking up on you. On the other hand, it’s often really helpful to have a tool or another person to help you stick to a new habit practice you’re incorporating.
There’s no denying that an accountability partner or tool can mean the difference between sticking with a new habit or not.
Here are some accountability examples that may be helpful:
- Phone Alarm – Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of something I want to remember to do each day. For example, I began a gratitude practice some months ago, and I wanted to practice being grateful throughout the day, so I have an alarm that quietly sounds at 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm to remind me to take a few seconds to think of what I’m grateful for and express my gratitude.
- Accountability Partner – Enlist a friend as an accountability partner. You can make whatever arrangement works best for you both. Maybe you want to check in daily with each other or exercise together on Zoom. I partner with a friend for a regular walk every Thursday. This way I know I have one day that I’ll definitely get outside and exercise without even having to think about it. And the plus is, we get to catch up at the same time!
- Old School Planner – How about a planner? If you use a planner, enter your new habit as a task or “meeting.” I’ve been trying different planners each year and found one I really like for 2023. (One criteria for my planner: it has to be pretty!) The act of actually writing my schedule in the planner, including my new and recurring habits, and being specific about the time I’m doing different things, helps me stay accountable and on track.
- Time Blocking or Boxing – Time blocking is a scheduling format that helps boost productivity by dividing your day into specific blocks of time. This may be beneficial to integrating a new habit into your day. I know several people who use time blocking daily, and, boy, do they get things done! Here’s an article with links to a downloadable time blocking-style schedule maker from Nir Eyal (he writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business).
- Habit Tracker – One more – a habit tracker. My 2023 planner has one built in, and I’m finding it really helpful in “keeping me honest” about doing the things I say I’m going to do. I’ve become such a fan that I created one to share with you! Click image below to download – it’s printable! (I’ve just started using the habit tracker and took the photo below on a Monday so, please, no judgment about all the empty circles! A funny thing – I have no idea what the fourth habit is! I don’t want to erase it as I’m sure I’ll figure it out, and it must have been important if I included it! 😂)
Click the image below
to download and print the Habit Tracker
I made it for you!
Slow & Steady for the Win
I’ve found much more success establishing new routines and habits when I start with one thing at a time or start small.
I suggest first, add one new habit at a time, maybe two. Most experts say it takes 21-60 days to establish a new habit. After a new habit is solidified, that’s a good time to start another.
Additionally, be realistic. If, for example, you’re starting a meditation practice and jump into a 30-minute meditation daily, there’s a good chance it won’t stick. That’s a big time commitment. Start with 5 or 10 minutes instead. Then, if you feel inspired to meditate longer, it will be much easier to add time to an already established 10-minute practice.
This concept may not be new to you – there have been many articles and books written about the idea of small steps or modifications that lead to big changes or wins. Two quick but impactful reads on the subject that are The Compound Effect (small, repeated actions result in big gains) and Atomic Habits (building habits in small steps). I recommend both.
Here are a couple of examples of new habits that I introduced into my routine using the slow and steady method:
- I began a meditation practice earlier this year. Since it was new to me, I chose to keep meditations to about 10 minutes and used guided meditations rather than trying to meditate on my own. Ten minutes was doable and didn’t feel overwhelming. I find the Insight Timer app makes a meditation practice simple and easy – lots of topics and lengths.
- When I introduce new exercises to my fitness routine, I start small so I won’t feel overwhelmed. To help me stick with a new exercise, for example, I started with 10 push-ups and then added more reps as I got stronger and accustomed to the practice.
You’re Human – Be Kind to Yourself
Let’s take just a minute to revisit the concept of being human. We’re imperfect. We have emotions. Some days are good and some aren’t. We have families and work responsibilities. Priorities can shift. Sometimes we don’t have control over the rhythm of the day. It’s life. No one is an island.
You’ll likely have days when the plan for practicing your new habit doesn’t go as expected. Don’t let that derail you. It happens to everyone. Just pick up the next day where you left off or rearrange the day’s schedule and move your new habit to a different time if that works.
On days that your plan doesn’t go exactly that way you envisioned it, flexibility and forgiveness are key. Be kind to yourself, just the way you’d be kind to another person who was having a challenging time.
Don’t give up. It’s a process. Just know that the tough times are as much a part of the process as the easy times.
Habits I’ve Built Over the Past Two Years
I’ve built a morning routine, or ritual, over the course of a couple of years (I like to call my it a ritual). Integrating a habit over time and then adding another, so it’s never felt overwhelming. I’ve created a morning routine that works for me and my schedule. Yours may look very different from this, but I offer my ritual here as an example of what a morning routine or ritual can look like. If you love to exercise in the morning, you’d include that in your morning ritual. I prefer to exercise in the afternoon, so my morning ritual doesn’t include exercise. The important thing is to create a morning routine that works for you, supports the start to your day, and supports the goals you have. I recommend starting slow – start with one or two things that are easy for you to do in the morning, then add one more and get used to it, then add another.
My Morning Ritual
- Morning “elixir” – I start each day with a hot drink based on lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. (Check out the ingredients below and a link to benefits.)
- Red light therapy – Ten minutes with my red light. Learn more about the benefits of red light therapy in this post. Check out the Vital Red Light devices at vitalredlight.com. Use this link or the code KARENTARVER to purchase one from Vital Red Light at a discount.
- Guided meditation – I meditate while using the red light. I’m fairly new to meditation and do better listening to a guided mediation. I like to use the Insight Timer app – it’s free and there are tons of meditations with different focuses and lengths.
- YogaToes – I wear these in the morning for about 30 minutes throughout my morning rituals. Check them out here or this style. (Don’t laugh! They’re beneficial!) YogaToes are toe separators made from silicone and gel and are designed to create more space between your toes and stretch the intrinsic muscles between your metatarsals.
- Spiritual reflection – my Catholic roots run deep and I’ve incorporated a reflective reading and some prayer in the morning.
- Journaling – I’ve never been a journaler. I don’t think I even kept a consistent diary practice when I was a preteen! So establishing a habit of journaling hasn’t come easy, but I believe journaling has substantial benefits, so I’ve stuck with it and am finding it easier. I include personal reflections as well as daily gratitudes and affirmations.
- Exercise usually happens for me in the late afternoon. I can easily rationalize my exercise away on many days, and I’ve found the habit tracker helps me stick with that commitment.
- The most important evening routine I have is stretching. It’s non-negotiable. It keeps me flexible (especially as I age), relaxes me at the end of the day, and helps me get ready for sleep. I recommend everyone establish a stretching routine each day.
My Morning Drink Starts My Day
This is an easy drink with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar as main ingrediets. There are many published benefits about ingesting both lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Although there isn’t a consensus regarding the benefits of the ingredients, I feel like it’s helped me control my weight and boosted my immune system. I suggest doing your own research regarding benefits of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.
Here’s what I do:
- To a mug, add the juice of 1/2 fresh lemon.
- Add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar.
- I also add a dash of cayenne pepper
- I like to sweeten my drink with a little honey.*
- Recently I’ve also been mixing in a serving of collagen powder.
- Fill the mug with hot water and stir to mix the ingredients.
*The photo shows manuka honey, which I do use each morning. But I don’t use it in the drink because heating honey destroys its health benefits, and manuka honey has many benefits. I use a generic organic raw honey as a sweetener.