Building new habits

Sticking to new intentions in 2020 can be difficult. Tom Mutton, GoodGym’s trainer in Sheffield, gives advice on how to hold yourself accountable

January 25, 2020

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It’s that time of the year again, for whatever reason when it comes around to the start of a new year we all start to consider how this year can be the start of one of our best years! But how do we get off on the good foot and most importantly stick to our best intentions and solidify our new habits? Here’s a few ideas that might help.

Write it down - Our resolutions, goals and habits are much more likely to stick if we write them down to firm our commitment and intentions to ourselves. Which leads us on to…

Accountability partners - After you have written your goal down, the next best thing you can do to solidify your commitment is tell someone. It could be a friend, partner, family member, GoodGym group. By telling other people it makes you more likely to stick it out and the people that you tell will ask you how you are getting on, encouraging you to stick to it! Even better if you can find someone that wants to make a similar commitment (they don’t have to have the same goal) and you can keep each other accountable.

30 day challenges - Personally I have found this simple method really useful to build positive habits and make them stick. Make yourself a 30 day calendar with a title of what you want your new habit to be, whether it’s drink a glass of water once you wake up, stretch for 30mins in the morning, be in bed by 11pm. Each day you complete your task give yourself a big X in the box and display the calendar somewhere prominent, ideally in a place where you would carry out the task. After 30 days it should become autonomous. Why not join me and try and do a new task each month and by the end of the year you will have 12 engrained healthy habits!

The two day rule - Again, one that I have found really useful. Inevitably there will be days when life gets in the way. You may be working away from home or you just get ill, and for whatever reason complete you daily goal. That’s fine, exercise some self compassion and don’t let it ruin your momentum. The two day rule is a really useful way to get back on track. Essentially you can have multiple days off in a week from your goal, but you never miss two days in a row. If you do, it’s often the start of the end. But if you get back on it the day after you have skipped a day it’s a lot easier to get back on track!

Break it down - If you have a larger goal for the year such as running your first 5k, 10k, half or full marathon, it can seem like a really daunting task which will seem very far off being achievable. Whilst it’s good to have a larger end goal that’s ambitious, make sure you break it down into manageable goals to help you reach the big one. For example if you are wanting to run your first 10k in October, you could set yourself monthly goals of running 1k in Jan, 2k in Feb and so on until what was your big unachievable goal now seems easily achievable because you have put the steps in place to reach it!

Piggyback - If you want to build small habits, think about how these could piggyback other things you already do on a daily basis. Want to be more flexible? Each time you boil the kettle, stretch your hamstrings for as long as it takes the kettle to boil. I have a pull-up bar on my bathroom door, after I go to the loo I do some form of exercise on the bar.

Set your intentions - Make life easy for yourself and try and remove barriers as much as possible. If you want to go for a run tomorrow, get your kit laid out ready the night before, shoes by the door. If you want to drink more water, set a glass next to the kitchen or bathroom sink as a gentle prod to remind you and to reduce any barriers in your mind.

Brag about it - It doesn’t have to be to the world, it can just be to yourself or a good friend or partner who won’t take it as arrogance. Tell someone or write down each night what you have done that day that you are proud of, that are ‘wins’, it might be as simple as I went for a walk. By reflecting on your wins it makes you appreciate what you have done, where you have come from and provides motivation to keep going and improve the next day!

Learn from mistakes - Similar to the 2 day rule, you WILL make mistakes, miss days, motivation WILL go up and down which is all fine. This can actually be really valuable if you reflect and think about WHY the mistake happened and HOW you can avoid it happening again. Was it that you’ve been meaning to create a habit of getting up at 6am each day but it hasn’t worked because your alarm on your phone is next to your bed? A solution might be to put your phone in another room so you have no choice but to get up to turn it off.

Mob mentality - Get Tribal! In the good sense of the word. If you can find a good group to carry out one of your new habits with you will be much more likely to not only stick at it but improve, become more motivated, learn and take on bigger challenges. Humans are a social species and we thrive when this environment is present. I’ve heard of a really nice group called GoodGym, why not start there…;)

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