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Time to Swap New Year’s Resolutions to Healthy Habits?

We’re almost a full month in to 2023 now and I'm curious - how have your New Year's resolutions been going? I find it fascinating how motivated one can feel when setting resolutions to kick start a new year or new chapter. In that moment, that vision or transformation feels so inspiring, attainable and real. Yet just a few weeks in, so many goals have simply become a distant memory, lost amongst the busyness of life. Why is that?

When you take time to reflect you might realise your goal wasn't really what you wanted to achieve after all, it was something in that moment, you thought you ought to do rather than truly wanted to do, and that's never going to be motivating and meaningful enough to create change. But what if you really did connect with your goal on a deeper level? It really was and is your vision of success and you're now feeling immensely frustrated because you didn't stick with it long enough to make sufficient progress or see a result.

Sometimes the outcome we're after is way too big to achieve in one step. All that hope, optimism and motivation you set out with at the beginning soon wears off if you don't break the big goal into bite-sized steps so you trust you're progressing (which also helps you stay motivated). You need to see a pathway - a plan of action if you like, to guide you and keep you on track. Yes, of course, busyness can still get in the way, but if the steps you take become habits, the steps become effortless. Just like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating meals. We accept these are all essential parts of our daily routine and we absolutely can create new healthy, helpful habits to achieve our goals.

The neural pathways in our brain are formed through repetition, the more times we experience something, the more that strengthens the neural pathway. This can make it hard to break habits that are no longer valuable, or change our perception of something if we once had a bad experience that we relate to it. The good news is, thanks to neuroplasticity, we can change our perceptions and even form new neural pathways to help us ditch limiting beliefs, develop a helpful mindset, and lock in new healthy habits. Whilst it can take time to build new pathways and create new habits, (depending on the task and individual the exact amount of time will vary considerably), visualisation is a really great technique, used by many sports professionals and public speakers, to help fast track the process. Simply imagining yourself doing the activity you're trying to develop into a habit, and reinforcing your mindset with positive self talk all helps to cement that new habit into place. The neural pathways involved are strengthened through the visualisation.

So the next time your imagination runs wild and you visualise the worst case scenario, or tell yourself you can't make progress or achieve your goal, take a deep breath and press pause. Ask yourself, what outcome would you rather have? Start imagining the outcome you're actually after and create your vision of success. In your mind, walk and talk yourself through the habits you need to form - all those baby steps you need to take to help you reach your goal. Keep repeating, as well as actually doing these actions and strengthen your neural pathways. You can even have prompts (such as a piece of music, an affirmation, a picture on the wall) to help spark that neural pathway and reinforce the habits that are going to help you achieve your vision. If your perception is going to create your reality isn't it time to take ownership and make sure your perception is serving you well?

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