2023 has come to a close, so we’re all focused on our New Year resolutions. The most common goals include exercising more, eating better or breaking a bad habit. Unfortunately, many resolutions frequently fail, but the good news is it’s not your fault, it’s your brain’s. You may have heard before that it takes 21 days to build a habit, but this is a myth. Forming a new habit can take several weeks or even months.
According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it took participants anywhere from 18 to 254 days to build a new habit, with the average time being 66 days. This means that on average, your New Year’s resolution won’t actually become a habit until March 6, meaning you shouldn’t give up if you find yourself still struggling to stick to your goals in the first few months of 2024.
Here are a few tips for accomplishing your goals this New Year:
Start Your New Year Resolutions Early
To see better results earlier in the year, start making changes now. Quitting any habit overnight rarely results in success. According to research from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, only three to five out of every 100 people will be able to successfully quit smoking cold turkey rather than a gradual decline. This is because our brains cannot be rewired in an instant, and it takes repetition and time to build a new habit or change a certain aspect of your lifestyle. This same idea applies to any lifestyle changes. Don’t expect immediate success and don’t be discouraged when change takes time.
Be Reasonable with Yourself
Breaking a habit or building a new one can be very challenging, but it’s important not to simply give up after a slip-up or two. Allow yourself to make a few mistakes along the way and be forgiving of yourself. It’s nearly impossible not to have a few “cheat days” while working toward a goal, especially depending on what habit you’re trying to break and how dependent you were on this habit before the New Year.
How to Track Your New Year Resolution Progress
Keep a journal or take photos of your progress if you’re making visible changes. Sometimes we don’t realize just how far we have come, even if we still have a long way to go. Be proud of what changes you have been able to make and celebrate them no matter how small. Progress is important and recognizing any minor changes you have made can help motivate and encourage you to stick with your goals for the rest of the year.
Change can be time-consuming and challenging, but it is possible. If you want to accomplish your long-term goals and resolutions, don’t forget: just because it’s taking time doesn’t mean it’s not happening.