THIS YEAR WE WILL….
Eat fewer chocolate-covered espresso beans and more actual beans. Stick with a sleep strategy for our exasperatingly adorable night owls. Reconnect with an estranged family member. Set compassionate boundaries with someone who needs it.
But January’s almost over and wellll…maybe next year??
Most of us go into the year with great intentions, but many of us struggle to implement, especially when babies and young children are part of the equation. Sometimes we feel super proud to have simply survived the day (and we should be, cause this is hard, ya’ll!), so adding or subtracting a habit can feel like self-sabotage, even when the change is ultimately good for us.
“I know I planned to take a 15-minute walk at lunch, but that might be the straw that breaks this mama camel’s back! No. Thank. You.”
But should we just give up on our goals for the next, say, eighteen years?
Charles Duhigg, New York Times reporter and author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, reminds us that it’s actually pretty cool that our brains and bodies can form habits. It’d be so inefficient if we had to consciously think about the order of events that must occur to change a diaper! The trouble is when our habits are making us sick or unhappy, and may be having an impact on our kids, since they’re likely to adopt our own habits as theirs.
Duhigg breaks down the change process into three steps:
- Recognize the cue. What was happening right before the habit? What time was it? Where was I? Who else was there? What was my emotional status?
- Identify the reward. What is it I was really craving? Company? Alertness? Pain relief? Form a theory, then test it out by trying to substitute something else for a week to see if it works. If I’m trying to stop checking my ex-boyfriend’s Instagram every night before bed because it fills me with jealous despair, my theory might be that what I really want is to feel a human connection. To test that, I should make time to call my bestie instead and see if that helps.
- Create a routine. Once feeling fairly confident about the cue and the reward, start consciously doing the new thing every time the cue happens. Planning ahead especially helps. For example, I could make a phone date with friends every night at 9:00 when my habitual Instagram temptations arise.
If the plan doesn’t work right away, don’t give up. Friends, family, and/or mental health professionals can help! Most everyone we know has a habit they’d like to break or to adopt, and most of us have to try and try again before we succeed.
Still feeling overwhelmed? That could be a sign of pushing too hard. Maybe this is your year to create a new habit of doing less! Only you know what you need—but if you need help sorting that out, give us a call!
Happy New Year, Strong Mom!