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Why I Won't Try to Break Bad Habits in the New Year

Trying to Break Bad Habits Makes Me Feel Defeated, So I'm Doing Things Differently in 2020

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When the holidays roll around, I inevitably begin thinking about the new year and planning my resolutions. I get excited for a clean slate and a fresh start and the idea that I could make the next year the best year ever. But while I genuinely love setting goals, I often feel discouraged by the time January arrives, because without fail, listing out the things I want to change about myself and my habits becomes an exercise in self-criticism. I don't want to waste my precious energy and time thinking about all of the things I hate about myself, so this year, I'm reframing my goals.

I don't want to waste my precious energy and time thinking about all of the things I hate about myself.
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As I started thinking about what I want my 2020 to look like, I decided that, rather than resolving to do things like stop eating sugar, I would crowd out my "bad" habits with good ones. It's a small but significant shift, because instead of taking things away, I'm adding things to my day that support the way I want to live. This eliminates the process of criticizing what I haven't done, and instead reframes my goals into something positive.

For example, I have a habit of craving coffee in the afternoon. I get tired, and a little afternoon pick-me-up sounds so good, even though I know it isn't the healthiest choice. Instead of resolving never to have an afternoon coffee again, I'm aiming to drink 100 ounces of water during the day. This means that I will hopefully be well-hydrated and not as sleepy, and won't feel the need to have an afternoon treat. Similarly, I've decided to start reading for 20 minutes every night, which should help me cut back on the amount of television I watch. And instead of criticizing myself for being lazy, I'm making it a goal to go to yoga on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons.

I love this approach for so many reasons. First of all, it feels more joyful to choose things I want to do to improve my life than to try to take things away. It gets me out of the headspace where I feel critical of what I'm doing and overwhelmed by the number of things I need to stop. It also ensures I'll never feel deprived. Secondly, I know myself: if I start reading for 20 minutes instead of sitting down to watch TV, I know I'm likely to read much longer because I really do enjoy it. And because good habits beget other good habits, once I get the ball rolling on a few things, I'll inevitably find other things I want to try.

Lastly, I know this approach feels better for me because it is one that is born out of self-love, rather than self-hatred. When I add things to my life that benefit me mentally, physically, and emotionally, it feels like I'm loving and taking care of myself, rather than diminishing whatever I was doing before. Adding good habits doesn't feel like strong-arming myself into a brand-new version of me. Instead, it feels like self-care and gentle encouragement to try things that will feel better in the long run. Do I hope that I will eventually replace my afternoon phone scrolling with a yoga class more often than not? Of course. But framing it this way will certainly make me feel much happier in the new year, that's a goal worth pursuing.

Image Source: Bust / Sarah Pflug
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