turning resolutions into habits

Happiness hacks #9: Make it easy

January is the month for good intentions. 

Question is, which of those those 'good-idea-at-the-time' presents will make it through? Will your brand new juicer see more than one carrot? Will your new running trainers actually leave the house? Has the wearable you vowed would make you smash your daily steps target made its way out of the packaging? 

I confess, even though my running trainers and wearable are in constant use, I do have a juicer in hibernation from about 2010 (taking 30 mins to dismantle, clean the pulp off its million bits and reassemble was a bit too much for the morning routine).

The juicer haunts me to this day and it is the reason my partner joked with me when I requested a cheap exercise bike this Christmas to help me get to our wedding marathon start line (which you can read all about here in case you missed it) in one piece. 

To show my commitment, I decided that if we are going to get a bike, it would have to be impossible not to use. 

So, it's now a trip hazard in the living room. You basically have to mount it just to get in.

Why so obstructive you ask? If I've learned anything in my 35 years it is that if you want people people to do something, you have to make it easy to do. 

I understand the beauty of order (as you will have read in a previous post). But I also understand the beauty of convenience. I know right now, if I make a nice home for it, or pack it away when it's not in use, it will gather dust in some forgotten corner - and my legs won't get any stronger.

Everything should have its place, but if there is a chance you might find an excuse instead of finding an item, that place has to be visible and, as is the case with the bike, conveniently inconvenient. 

I am certainly not alone in my thinking. I was listening to a Ted Radio Hour (love these) podcast this morning all about nudging. A behavioural economist was discussing the fact that pension contributions have increased significantly just by asking people to opt out rather than in. 

After all, the easy route (the one that doesn't involve excessive form filling), will always win. 

Another was discussing something called 'the last mile'. He talks about breakthrough vaccines that don't saves lives they could because people do not know or choose to use them. 

You don't become the world's ice cream maker by having the world's best maker on your counter. You have to use it. (The getting good part, of course, is entirely in your hands.) 

We none of us want appliances and gadgets clogging up our cupboards and our lives, so I think we owe it to ourselves to find a way to make what we have work for us.

So, liberate those cupboards, get those gadgets on display, make ice cream in your ice cream maker, get in a stew over your slow cooker and wear your wearable to bed.

If there's a will, there really is a way! 

Oh, and never buy a really complicated juicer, even if it claims to core and slice your apple. There is no position in the kitchen that would make this more convenient. 

Let's turn good intentions into brilliant habits that make it through the year! 

Happiness hacks #7: A habit shared is a habit formed

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that all January’s good intentions are usually just forgotten by February (or by the time you’ve finished your Christmas chocolates).

But, as I have discovered by joining my friend’s healthy eating group (a closed forum on Facebook where we get to declare our healthy eating goals and track our progress - as well as share the moments when the cheese gets the better of us), there is a magic formula:

Resolution + accountability = habit for life (not missed opportunity)

Resolutions aren’t what we all should aspire to make.

It’s habits that change lives.

I admire my friend Rachel hugely for all that she has achieved by turning her love of cooking, decluttering and publishing into something that has brought hope into the lives of those around her – including her own.

Changing the habits of a lifetime is so so hard. I asked Rachel why she started her group, called Tiniest Thai Diet Revolution, and she told me about the fact that putting on three stone over the last decade had made her feel out of control, upset and unhealthy. “I struggled to breathe when I bent over to put on shoes,” admits Rachel. “I felt quite hopeless and I didn’t know what to do about it. All I did know is that I didn’t want to go on a diet. Then, I saw an unflattering (well truthful) photo of myself and decided enough was enough. I put myself on the scales and cried… Then I took control.”

I love Rachel’s honesty and her resolve to change not just her Januarys but her life. 

As the name suggests, Rachel loves Thai food. Having lived in Thailand, she saw at first hand how people eating a natural Thai diet were naturally slim and healthy. So, she started looking back over her old recipes (she’s been cooking since the age of 12) and examined her principles of eating and decided to create a new lifestyle that would enable her to lose weight and live well. It’s a lifestyle she stands by and it’s one that has seen her lose 40 pounds in just nine months. 

Making a conscious decision to change is the first step and it’s one Rachel - who has for years surrounded herself with healthy eating advice – knows well: “I’ve been given lots of advice over the years and I’ve loved reading SO many books on food, healthy eating etc,” adds Rachel. “But, I’ve only ever followed any of it when I’ve made a conscious decision to not just lose weight, but to find a new way of eating not a restrictive diet.” 

Making the decision to change is, however, not the only step. And, that’s where the group and the accountability bit come in. It’s one thing to map your own route and it’s quite another to share that route and encourage others to help you stay on track. 

I am now six weeks in to Rachel’s latest eight-week programme and I have to say, accountability makes everything easier. The emails with simple hacks to help you make more mindful food choices are also great too. 

It’s not the first time Rachel has helped me on a food-based adventure. I will never forget her kindness when she shared a recipe called eggs in purgatory (a Nigella Lawson special) that helped me find my appetite again during chemo. 

Most people I know are not really comfortable in their own skin. Rachel is now and I feel grateful to have shared just a little of her journey. I think before I eat now. I eat more of what my body needs now. And, most importantly, I know that it’s ok to have a treat as long as it’s not a daily ritual. 

While I can’t share all her secrets (you’ll have to join the group for that - next one starts in a week), I will share one of her awesome recipes: Sort of som tam

So, make January the month you make a habit not a resolution. And then, find someone with the same aim to help you make that habit last a lifetime! 

Happy New Year and thanks Rachel for bringing sunshine and som tam into my life.