Habit building

Happy New Year, friends! Can we still say that on 7th January?

I’m using this cold and usually fairly boring month of the year to try to start building some better habits. I don’t really believe in the whole “new year, new you thing” (I’m fine as I am, thanks!). But personally I like to see 1st January as an opportunity to think about any habits I might want to introduce or build on, and the ones I might want to start leaving behind.

I think this is partly because December is often busy – and being busy is usually my number one trigger for slipping into habits that don’t make me feel so great. Staying up too late, sleeping too little, never doing a proper food shop and having to do a daily 6pm dash to the supermarket for an easy but uninspiring dinner…I could go on.

Anyway, we’re now on day 7 of this new year and my main observation is that you really need to “choose” some of the habits that make you feel good. This is maybe not true of everything – making coffee every morning makes me feel good and that has honestly never been a struggle. But it’s true for a lot of it.

I probably knew this already but it still baffles me a bit. Why is it easier to stay up until 1am scrolling through random crap on my phone than it is to go to bed at 10 with a book, even though I love relaxing in bed and reading and I know how terrible I feel when my alarm goes off after 5 hours sleep?! Why do I have to really force myself out of the door to Run Talk Run every week, even though I always enjoy it?

I’m currently listening to James Clear – Atomic Habits on audiobook and (while I wish there were a few less references to healthy eating and fitness) his points about making habits obvious, attractive, easy etc do seem to make a lot of sense. I’ve always criticised myself for lacking in motivation, and now I’m realising that maybe “motivation” isn’t this magical quality that some people have and others don’t. Maybe it’s something you gain when you’ve managed to persuade yourself into doing something enough times that you start to see the benefits. Or maybe motivation isn’t relevant at all here, and it’s just about building up through small steps until a new habit becomes second nature.

So I’m starting small this year. It’s fairly typical of me to try to take on 25 new habits at once and tick them off a list every day, then abandon them all when I realise I’m “failing”. Instead, this month I’m sticking with Yoga With Adriene’s 30 days, and slowly trying to break the habit of reaching for my phone first thing after waking up / last thing at night. The two are linked – the yoga is partly so I move more and stretch out those running legs, but also to help me work on slowing my mind down and not feeling so much need to be distracted by a screen during quiet moments.

I’m aiming for progress not perfection, so I didn’t abandon the yoga just because I started 2 days late, nor will I abandon it if I accidentally miss a day. If it takes me 45 days to do all 30 classes, so be it. It helps that the classes all seem to be around 25 minutes this year, which doesn’t feel too intimidating. I’m trying to always do the class after my morning coffee, and leave my yoga mat and clothes in the living room ready before I go to bed at night. Having taken the pressure off myself, and tried some ways to make it an easy choice, so far I’ve managed 3 days in a row, which is 2 more than I managed when I attempted the same thing last year! I still struggle to focus for the whole class, but I’m enjoying each one more than the last so I’m hopeful this will continue!

The phone thing is harder, especially in the morning. It’s become such a reflex to look at the screen when I wake up, and in winter I rely on my phone alarm when I inevitably snooze my alarm clock 5 times! A few mornings in, it’s clear I am never going to miraculously remember not to look at it, so the next step is to think of a way to remind myself. I want to get there, even if it takes me a full year to do it.

I could continue talking about this stuff all day, but I’ll leave it there for now! I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you have on building habits, or any that you’re trying to build / break this year!

2 thoughts on “Habit building

  1. mrsfrankcom

    Great thoughts as always Tanya. Like you I always try and take too much on so this year I have decided that any improvement should be celebrated and as such I now have a colouring in calendar to record good, mediocre and not so good days. I find colouring in a green square makes me want to colour more in green. We shall see how this goes 😊


    1. Ah I like the idea of that calendar! Will be interested to hear how it goes 🙂 and definitely with you on celebrating any small improvements or positives, sometimes it’s very easy to just notice the “negatives” or things you didn’t quite manage and not realise how many good things there have been!


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