Building a new, lasting habit is hard. A recent survey showed that more than half of people who set a New Year’s resolution fail to keep it for longer than a year. That may sound like you have a fifty-fifty chance of forming a habit that sticks, but with the right preparation, you can beat the odds.
Habits fail for a variety of reasons — unrealistic goals, lack of support, and, perhaps most commonly, when one slip-up snowballs into a complete fall-out of your new habit. However, the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” gets repeated for a reason. If you can anticipate a slip, create a plan of action, and ultimately learn from your missteps, these stumbles merely become bumps on your journey towards building lifelong healthy habits.
What Causes a Slip?
No one’s perfect, and slip-ups will happen. You can be weeks into your new nutrition routine, feeling good and seeing results, but then your coworker brings in donuts, and a work trip requires multiple dinners out. Your routine has now been challenged.
Slips happen most often due to a breakdown in self-regulation. These breakdowns occur for a variety of nuanced reasons. Let’s take a look at the most common culprits to assess how they’re born — and how, with a bit of planning, they can be prevented.
Being in a Bad Mood
You may have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, or life’s mundane annoyances may be getting you down; whatever the cause, bad moods can roll in at any time. If you’ve then found yourself sabotaging your own health goals as a result, you’re not alone. Research shows that negative moods can lead you to self-comfort with food or alcohol and deter you from pursuing important life goals. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.
How to Prevent This
Emotions are a part of life, so avoiding bad moods entirely is an unrealistic solution. Instead, start bringing more awareness to your emotions and the impact they have on your health habits.
To illustrate: Imagine that stress leads you to over-consume your favorite “treat” snack. The first step to stop this from happening is to identify the emotion you’re feeling (stress). The next step is to identify your unhealthy reaction to stress (eating treats). Once you’ve identified the emotion and the reaction, create a plan for handling the emotion in a healthier way.
To better handle stress, for instance, you could decide to take a walk before reaching for any treats. The important thing here is to make this plan before