As the leaves begin to turn shades of red, orange, and yellow in the crisp fall air, the change of season also brings an opportune time to examine and refresh your lifestyle. Research suggests that it can feel more natural to try on new habits at the start of the school year compared to the start of the calendar year.
By identifying areas of opportunity for growth and development in your life and committing to starting today (as opposed to waiting for News Year's resolutions in January to roll around) you can assess areas of your life that require attention and immediately start to take action.
Creating new habits in the fall may also help to increase happiness, create a lifestyle going into winter that can combat the "winter blahs", and increase the likelihood that the resolution will carry forward beyond January (because you already have a pre-existing established habit).
In addition, while we may let some habits slip during the holidays, it is much easier to get things back on track in January if you have already established habits through the autumn months.
If you would like to try on a new habit this fall, there are several evidence-based things you can do to help make it stick:
- Be realistic: Create practical habits that you can keep. For example, if you want to increase your physical fitness create a resolution to exercise a few times per week instead of every day. Over time that number can build; however, starting small and achieving success is a powerful motivator to continue the habit.
- Take small steps: Breaking up a longer-term goal into more manageable short-term goals can be beneficial, motivating and rewarding.
- Do one thing at a time: One of the fastest routes to failure is having too many resolutions, so start with one thing and once it becomes a habit you can start to add on. For example, if you want to increase your health start by deciding to give up drinking OR give up smoking OR join a gym OR make healthier dietary choices. You can eventually do them all; however, the research is clear that you cannot successfully do them all at once.
- Be SMART: Create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) resolutions. Cutting down on alcohol consumption is an admirable goal, but it is not SMART. Drinking no more than two glasses of wine every other day for one month is a SMART resolution.
- Get social: Sharing your new goal with family, friends, coworkers, on social media, etc. can increase adherence, motivation and accountability.
- Find a friend: Sometimes changing a habit solo can be difficult. For instance, if you and your partner both like to eat out five nights a week, it can be hard for one partner to change their behaviour if the other is still engaged in the same old habit. By having a shared resolution, the probability of success is higher.
- Be kind to yourself: It is inevitable that sometimes when we try to give up something we may have a lapse. There are no quick fixes in making major lifestyle changes. Being aware that slip ups can happen, having compassion for yourself, and committing to getting right back on track (so that a short lapse doesn't turn into a slip-up of a week, month, or a lifetime) is critical to success.
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