Sleep longer. Eat healthier. Exercise more.
Becoming a “better” version of yourself can quickly turn into a nearly endless list of tasks, leaving you overwhelmed.
We often decide to try and tackle multiple habits but end up unable to master any of them from the sheer effort it takes to do them.
If you’re failing your New Year’s resolutions almost as soon as you’ve started them, don’t be hard on yourself. About 64% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January, according to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Luckily, science tells us that in order to achieve more, we should actually do less.
It seems counterintuitive, but it’s easier to work on one or two habits rather than striving to improve all aspects of yourself at once. At least according to Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist based in Dallas.
Changes in thinking and behavior take about two months to build, she said. When you divide up a year, that is five to six goals you can reach every year.
Leaf recommended people find one to two specific goals to work on in nine-week increments. Then break it down even further so you have a small goal to accomplish each week.
“As a result, the small changes that you make each month won’t feel so intimidating, and you won’t feel as worn out by achieving them,” Leaf said.
Where to begin
If you don’t know where to start, it’s a good idea to begin by selecting a theme for the year, she said. For Leaf, her 2022 theme is having a “possibilities mindset.”
After that, assess how you feel when you work on a negative habit, she said. Then, reflect and write down how it’s impacting you and why, Leaf explained.
Once you decide on a theme and a couple goals to support it, prioritize which goals should be completed first. Some may need to meet self-imposed deadlines while others may have external deadlines already set, such as writing a book that needs to be sent to the editor, she said.
Need some inspiration for your goals and ways to tackle them? Here are some ideas.
Getting enough shut-eye
Many people want to sleep better. Without adequate sleep, your body cannot perform at its best for exercising and eating healthier.
A recent global study of 22,330 adults from 13 countries found the rate of insomnia associated with the pandemic is 36.7%. This is significantly higher than the rates of anxiety (25.6%) and depression (23.1%) related to the pandemic.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to go to sleep, wake up or go back to sleep if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.