Every year, many of us promise to break unhealthy habits as a New Year Resolution. Yet, only 8% make the necessary lifestyle changes to see their resolutions beyond January. With 2020 being such a challenging year for many of us, the New Year 2021 is just what we need to break old habits and start a new chapter. Here are three things I’m leaving behind in 2020.
Why the New Year 2021 Is The Perfect Time for Breaking Bad Habits
A new calendar year is a clean slate with seemingly endless possibilities. Many of us look at the swapping of a calendar as an internal and symbolic passing of the baton.
We leave behind any unhealthy habits we’ve acquired over the previous year and go forward with a new set of disciplines to live better lives.
2020 knocked our routines and turned our lives upside down. Quite honestly, we’re leaving this year feeling pretty beat up. However, that’s all the more reason to look ahead to 2021.
While we may not control this virus, we can control some things in our everyday lives. These seemingly small but incremental improvements will ultimately change our attitudes and actions.
Why Do So Many People Fail to Meet Their New Year Resolutions?
I get it. Breaking bad habits is far easier said than done. That’s why 92% of people fail at their New Year Resolution.
However, what does it mean “to fail”? A lot of us hold ourselves to a very high (sometimes impossible) standard.
If you’re anxious like me, then anytime you miss your mark, you kick yourself, overanalyze the situation, and make things worse in your own head.
Perhaps some of the New Year Resolution “fails” you’ve experienced weren’t really fails either. Maybe it’s the way you formed the New Year Resolution that was the issue.
Instead of making a resolution to go to the gym, make a resolution to be more active. Come up with ways to enjoy movement. If you go from sitting on the couch seven days a week to walking 30 minutes a few days a week, that’s a win.
Once you build a walking habit, increase your physical activity to more days per week. Even if it feels like baby steps; you’re still moving forward and replacing bad habits. That’s more winning!
3 Lifestyle Changes I’m Making in New Year 2021
Healthy lifestyle changes are unique for each person. We all have our own preferences, vices, and wellness goals.
So, while I encourage you to read about my lifestyle changes, the actual goals might not resonate with you. That’s fine. Use it to figure out how to stop bad habits of your own.
1. Quit or Limit Drinking
Living a life of shelter in place makes time go a lot slower. Many of us are spending money on alcohol to cope with these uncertain times.
While some adults like to kick back with a beverage to unwind, it’s easy to fall into a slope of dependency. I struggled with drinking issues in 2020.
My drinking didn’t get out of control, but there were weeks where I’d still have at least a beer with dinner. Eventually, I couldn’t name the last day I didn’t have a drink.
These periods are sometimes common for me, and it makes me uncomfortable. So, I’m being proactive and having a Dry January. Then, I’m going to continue to limit my alcohol intake to special occasions only.
As part of my Dry January, I’m not drinking on New Year’s Eve. Who needs a hangover to start off the New Year? Instead, I’m going to host a virtual lip-synch battle with friends as the kids go to sleep. We’re going to have mocktails and belt out our best Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow routine.
Need more ideas? Other Dry January New Year’s Eve activities you can try:
- Booking a Local Getaway
- Movie Marathon
- Staycation at a Hotel with Room Service
- Night Hiking
- Extravagant Themed Dinner
- Midnight Meditation
- Video Game All-Nighter
- Skip Staying Up, Sleep, and Wake Up Refreshed New Year’s Day
- Virtual Events (Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve, RuPaul’s Drag Race, KISS 2020 Good-Bye, And More)
Whenever you make healthy lifestyle changes, especially giving up alcohol, it can cause adverse reactions from those around you. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes your positive changes can trigger insecurities within them.
When I cut down on my drinking, I notice those sorts of kickbacks from friends and family. They’ll call me “The Fun Police” or say things like, “Wow. You must be bored.”
Altering my unhealthy habits may be planting seeds of doubt about their own lifestyle choices. Coming to terms with your bad habits is a scary realization. So, don’t take it to heart if you try to make healthier choices and don’t receive the support you’d expect from loved ones.
Whenever you decide to partake in an event like Dry January, be upfront about it with others. Not drinking creates an elephant in the room. Be proactive by explaining your participation in Dry January beforehand, especially if drinking is an expectation.
Also, make sure your friends and family know that you’re cool with others drinking. While your lifestyle changes are your own choice, it might influence how others relax.
The reason you’re hanging out with them is that you like their company, not the beverages. Let your company know that you love them and don’t judge anything they do. You’re just there to have a good (sober) time.
2. Cut Down On Screen Time
I spend a lot of time on a computer. Not to mention the television I watch, the podcasts I listen to, and the text messages I send all day. In 2021, I’m swiping left on electronics and swiping right on a digital detox.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my phone. It’s an excellent camera on vacation, a wonderful copilot when I’m driving and has the best playlists in the world. I’m just uncomfortable with how dependent I am of this device in my life.
I’m as dependent on my smartphone as I ever was on alcohol. Yet, alcohol caused me to make some lifestyle changes. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that my screen time needs the same discipline.
A study looked at the addictive tendencies of social media. (If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, then check it out. It will shock you!) Experts noted that notifications trigger the amygdala, a part of our brain associated with an emotional response.
In particular, social media notifications stimulate the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and midcingulate cortex (MCC). These regions of the amygdala are in charge of impulsiveness and self-control, respectively. Therefore, getting notifications trigger these reward centers, causing us to crave them actively.
What’s alarming about this dependency is that social media doesn’t stimulate the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc). This section of the brain weighs the pros and cons of addictive behaviors. Social media is altering how we perceive unhealthy habits.
One meta-analysis of human screen time usage stated, “Assuming the average American gets eight hours of beauty rest a night, that means they spend six hours and 43 minutes a day looking at a screen, or 7,956 days of their life. That is 42% of our day not spent looking at our children, nature, or a book.
Looking at screens all day is also throwing off our regular sleep patterns. Our sleep cycles are dictated by light. Sunlight charges our pineal gland, a small pea-sized gland situated behind our eyes.
As long as light keeps the pineal gland activated, our body produces daytime hormones, such as cortisol and serotonin. When night falls, the production of these hormones slows down, making room for melatonin.
Melatonin helps us sleep through our cycles. When sunlight creeps in through the window, melatonin production slows down. This process causes our glands to secrete serotonin, so we wake up refreshed and ready to crush the day. Yet, that’s not how things work in 2020.
Humans evolved without homes, electricity, and computers. Early human ancestors were exposed to the sun all day. Now, our access to the sun is thrown off, and sleep issues are prevalent worldwide.
Screens play a significant role in the rise of sleep problems. Blue lights in our phones, televisions, and watches emulate the rays of a freshly risen sun.
These blue waves are sending mixed signals to our pineal gland. Ultimately, this throws off our melatonin production.
Obviously, I can’t quit screen time 100%. Otherwise, I won’t make a living. So, I supplement my low melatonin levels with a fast-acting melatonin spray, like Tranquility Labs’ Sleep Fast +.
Sleep Fast+ is made with all-natural botanicals that help relax an overworked mind and racing thoughts at night. That way, you produce fewer excitatory hormones, making room for your pineal gland to produce melatonin.
This all-natural spray is also fortified with melatonin that compliments your natural hormone production. With all of your melatonin bases cover, you’re guaranteed a good night’s rest.
I love Sleep-Fast+ because it’s non-habit forming. However, I still want to get back on my circadian rhythm naturally.
So, I’m cutting down on screen time in various ways:
- Going for Hikes or Doing Yard Work Instead of Binge-Watching TV
- Reading Books Instead of News Websites
- Listening to CDs and Records Instead of Listening to Podcasts or Streaming Services
- Calling a Friend or Socially Distanced Visits with People Instead of Scrolling Social Media
It goes without saying that you need a phone to call and make plans or look up the best ways to care for your garden. That’s when a phone is a resource rather than a timewaster. So, if you do use technology, make sure to use it mindfully!
3. Get Moving
When the pandemic first started, it was acceptable to binge-watch the Tiger King and order delivery every day. We’re almost a year into this pandemic and if we’re not careful, we can lose ourselves. Now is the time to break these unhealthy habits.
Countless studies show that exercise is integral to happiness. Whenever we exercise the physical body, our mind rewards us with endorphins. One Harvard analysis finds that running just 15 minutes per day can decrease risk of depression up to 26%.
Endorphins are the same feel-good hormones that we seek out when we drink alcohol and scroll social media. However, these endorphins are training us to seek enjoyment from something positive this time!
The most challenging part of getting into an exercise routine is sticking to it. Getting started is easy. We get excited about all the new prospects. Yet, 5.1 million Americans spend $1.8 billion on unused gym memberships every year. So, what happens?
We don’t like the routines we’re doing. Maybe a regular gym isn’t for you. Perhaps you should try a more interactive form of strength-training like CrossFit?
Many of us want to have better cardio health. Yet, running can cause shin splints and achy joints. That doesn’t mean you can’t workout your heart!
Healthy lifestyle changes mean altering your regimen to meet your needs. Get your cardio on by joining a self-defense class, swimming, or dancing.
Exercise isn’t just running and packing on muscles. Stretching and mobility training is also essential for a healthy body.
Yoga implements physical activity and breathwork. Both of these practices nurture the mental and physical bodies.
Deep breathing techniques used in yoga helps reset your anxious centers. It makes you become grounded and “in the moment” so that you don’t get lost in your anxious thoughts.
Practicing yoga also allows you to tend to physical aches and pains. It improves your flexibility and helps loosen any knots formed by stress.
Moving more will not only help you feel good, but you will look good, as well. Once again, this illustrates how our physical and mental health are connected.
When you work out and feel your best inside, it reflects on the outside. As you see and experience firsthand positive changes from your healthy lifestyle choices, you will be encouraged to keep going.
Breaking Bad Habits in New Year 2021
A New Year Resolution is meant to push you towards getting better. We should use this momentum as a resource to kick any unhealthy habits to the curb.
We are all guilty of unhealthy habits. Sometimes treats and indulgences are what makes life worth living. However, too much of a good thing can turn to a bad thing.
Binge-drinking, binge-watching, and binge-slouching are all bad habits. They are deeply ingrained in our culture.
Stop living with the pressure of “passing” or “failing” your New Year’s Resolution. Take your wellness goals one day at a time, and evaluate every 90 days. Look at your schedule and see where you can make small lifestyle changes. Every little bit counts and can compound to one big New Year Resolution win!
- A New Year Resolution isn’t a pass or fail goal. Take it in strides, break it up into chunks or themes, and adjust and course correct throughout the year.
- Drinking alcohol is one of the most challenging unhealthy habits to break due to societal pressures, but quitting is also one the best things for your health.
- Too much screen time can waste time, exacerbate anxiety and depression, and mess with your circadian rhythm.
- Getting more movement in your body is one of the most necessary lifestyle changes to nurture your mental and physical health. You look better, too!