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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jill King

New Year, New Habits?

It's that time of year again. New Year Resolutions!

We want to make a life change for whatever reason (health, love, wealth are the top 3) but new and shiny distractions seem to veer us away from the end goal. So, what makes it stick? Habits. Habits are things like brushing our teeth, checking our social media, returning emails, reading a book 10 pages at a time, and one of the most common....biting our nails. Some of these are helpful and some are not. In a nutshell, a habit is a routine behavior we do regularly or habitually.

3 Steps to Forming a Habit

Sciency people have figured out that there is something they call a habit loop. This is a 3-step process that includes a cue, a behavior, and a reward. Once you understand how to form a habit, you can learn how to get unstuck from your bad habits and make your good habits stick.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when starting with a new habit. That's where the power of starting small comes into play. They say that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. There's no such as an action too small when it comes to priming your brain into making a new habit.

Set Your Goal

What is a good goal to have? What should it look like? How big should I go? Truthfully, the answer to all these questions is that it's entirely up to you. There's no right or wrong goal to have, but it is important to pick goals that matter to you and help you become a better version of yourself.

It is best to break your goals into two categories: short-term and long-term. Short-term is something you want to achieve in the immediate future like today, next week, next month, or within the next year. Long-term goals are the things you want to achieve beyond the next 12 months.

Short-term: What's one thing you'll feel proud of yourself for achieving 3 months from now?

Long-term: Think about yourself 2 years from now. What's one thing you want to be able to say you've achieved?

What to Think About When Setting Goals

  • Be realistic with the time you have available. What is a fair amount of time to dedicate to your goal?

  • Showing up and following through on what you said you were going to do is a skill that will serve you well in ALL areas of your life and future, so don't get caught up in how fast you can achieve it. Appreciate that you have stuck to your commitments because you have made them achievable.

  • Be aware of the inner critic that tells you that you can't figure it out. Your brain's default is to not want to change, but you can override that and speak back to those negative thoughts.

Staying Active

This is the biggest habit people want to create as the new year is approaching. Maybe you want to feel better, more energized, more self-confident, or whatever your reason is. It's worth figuring out how to create a habit. Maybe for you, the word exercise makes you cringe because it's just easier to curl up in the bed and stay warm (I feel you). In fact, our brains are wired to want to exert as little energy as possible. It's important we make the effort to get into the habit of regular exercise; otherwise, little by little we'll begin to cause issues for our health. You may notice things like feeling out of breath after climbing stairs or not being able to walk your dog as far as you used to. In the long term, this extra demand on your cardiovascular system (your heart) can really take a toll on your well-being. As you get older, it can lead to things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol ratio, and obesity (cue).

While physical activity can cause temporary physical discomfort (behavior), it's a small price to pay for the kick-butt feeling you get afterward (reward). You'll not only feel a boost in self-esteem from the body's endorphins (hello natural happy chemicals) but you'll also lower your stress chemicals and increase the ones that help improve your mood. Exercise is a powerful way to ward of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Let's give ourselves the gift of that feeling and the physical benefits that come with it.


  • Setting goals is an important part of deciding what habits we want to instill in our lives.

  • Long-term goals are anything over 12 months.

  • Short-term goals are anything under 12 months.

  • Take your long-term goals and break them into EASY tasks that you do daily. What is something you can do that is an easy check-off the list? (walking outside?)

Starting small with mini habits will make it easier for our brain to get started on taking action and feel the reward of following through. This helps us build our self-esteem and identify as someone who can do these things.

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