You cut out sugar one month, only to find yourself snacking on donuts the next. You decide to work out every morning, which then becomes every other morning, then once a week and then finally not at all. You plan on meditating for 20 minutes, but your boss keeps calling, so you settle for ten. That turns into a few moments of deep breathing every once in a while.
Does this—or something like it—sound familiar? If the answer is yes, you’re in good company. When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, 80 percent of them fail by February. Why is it so hard to stick to our great healthy expectations? We know it’s good for us and in our best interests, but we struggle to make these healthy habits stick.
One of the most effective ways to start and sustain healthy habits is to add them into your existing routine, instead of making drastic and dramatic changes. This is especially powerful for busy people with packed calendars, such as working parents, focused college students, driven professionals, jet set travelers and social butterflies. It’s hard to keep these changes going if they halt or impede your lifestyle. That’s why, when trying to make healthy habits stick, you should explore:
- 15-minute activities that can be squeezed into any schedule. You may have to wake up a little earlier or multitask on a few projects to carve out the time, but 15 minutes a day for some deep breathing, quick cardio or relaxing self-care is easier to sustain than trying to block out an hour or more. Plus, if you miss your 15-minute cardio session in the morning, it’s not like your whole exercise plan for the day is ruined. You can squeeze it in during lunch or at night.
- Planning ahead for vacations and other routine disruptions that might tempt you to skip a run or eat pizza every night. Stay at a vacation rental instead of a hotel, so you have access to a full kitchen where you can prepare healthy meals. Unlike hotels, these types of homes are often in neighborhoods, making it easier to take a jog or brisk walk before you get the day started. Even if you are planning a staycation, a vacation rental can help you escape the daily grind and see the city like you never have before. Turnkey notes that you can choose a neighborhood that’s close to attractions and activities you want to see and do, whether you want to stay by the beach in Malibu, dine in Koreatown, or explore another L.A. neighborhood.
- Meal prep recipes that give you access to wholesome, healthy foods when you’re in a hurry. All too often, we pull into the drive-thru because we’re behind in our schedule. Devote a rainy afternoon to chopping, dicing, roasting, baking and storing meals and snacks that only require a quick reheat to enjoy. You can get the whole family involved by letting your kids help pick out recipes and take on safe kitchen tasks. Not only will that help you meal prep more quickly, but it also teaches them how to make healthy choices early on.
- Logging your goals and tracking your progress. If you track what you want to do and what you actually do, you’ll keep yourself motivated to stay on top of your efforts. Plus, you’ll be able to know what is working and what isn’t, so you can either adjust your plan or spend time on a different goal. It’s okay to not be ready to make a change; work on something else you can achieve for a while.
Healthy habits can be easy to start but hard to stick to, because our Western culture doesn’t always set us up for success. We emphasize and even value stress, though we know it is unhealthy. We feel guilty when we have free time, so we fill up every minute in order to feel accomplished. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but they can lead to some pretty unhealthy habits. Focus on what is really important to you, and those healthy habits will naturally fall into place.