31 days of something {new year’s challenge}

by Kim on January 1, 2014

Happy Neeeeew Year!

How was your NYE? Mine was possibly the lowest-key one I’ve had since I was 13. (Even the year I was pregnant, I went to a party—ha!)

Instead of being fun or social, we stayed in and devoted the whole night to an epic Breaking Bad marathon. And let me tell you: it. Was. AWESOME.

There was popcorn. There was beer. There was happiness.

And there was bad photography.

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This morning, I “got dressed” by switching from sweatpants to yoga pants, and then spent most of the morning lounging with the boys. Mason’s still obsessed with his new books and spent the morning carrying them from one parent to the next. I think he must have had about 50 books read to him.

When he went down for his nap, I headed out for a leisurely grocery run—making the rookie mistake of waiting until I was hungry to do it. Wow, everything looked so good. I might have come home with a few off-list surprises…

So that brings me here.

I feel sort of obligated to address the whole resolution thing, even though I’m not a huge fan. A little fresh motivation never hurts, and I’m right there with the people planning to cut back after the holidays, but the aggressive, vague resolutions—those of the “lose lots of weight” variety, for example—are really powerless without specific goals and plans behind them.

resolutions

Saying “I’m going to start going to the gym more” isn’t enough to make it happen. How often exactly? For how long? At what time of the day? For what purpose (that you actually care about)?

“I’m going to start eating better” is even worse. Unless you’re writing resolution-approved menu plans and grocery lists, or at least jotting down lists of specific foods you’d like more or less of in your diet, that phrase is totally meaningless.

Also, the minute you crack and eat a few cookies, it’s waaay too easy to throw in the towel. That black-and-white, all-or-nothing mindset is the dirtiest success zapper out there.

The other problem with resolutions is that people tend to approach them backwards. They put a ton of effort in up front, when they’re fresh and motivated, until they eventually burn out. But the best way to instill a new habit is to approach it the other way: gradually—and very, very, very consistently.

If I did have a resolution this year, it would be this:

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Last year, I wrote Life Resolutions (which weren’t really resolutions so much as they were ideas about mindfulness). I wanted to make an effort to be more present and vulnerable, to learn to let go, to recognize happiness instead of seeking it, and to cultivate joy by choosing positive thoughts, among other things. And I think I’ve made huge strides in those areas, but not really because of the resolutions—more because I was already actively working on those things and heading in the right direction when January 1 rolled around.

So I’m wary about resolutions, but something I can get behind is new habits. Small, specific ones that make tiny improvements to your life (but, added together, they equate to huge improvements).

So this is what I’m proposing for this year:

31 days

Pick a new habit and do it every day for the month of January. It has to be something small and realistic, but still somewhat challenging for you, that’s also specific and measurable.

This could be a habit you’d like to continue forever or a mindset shift you want to kickstart. It could be the exact habit you want or a small set toward a bigger habit. (Like, if you want to start working out regularly, maybe you commit to doing 10 minutes a day at first.)

Write down the plan and what you hope to get out of it. Print out a calendar (like this one) and mark off the days you’re successful.

And here’s the tricky part: just pick ONE thing. It’s easy to get your motivation supercharged on January 1, and plot to take over the world in the month of January, but the keys to a real, long-term habit-change are: gradualness (I looked that up—it’s really a word) and consistency.

The most important part is that you do it every day. This awesome article from Zen Habits (which you should totally read if your 2014 goals have anything to do with adding exercise to your life) summarizes why: the more consistent an action is, the more likely it is to be a habit. (If you don’t already have an exercising habit in place, starting out with 3 days a week isn’t actually going to get you there as easily.)

IDEAS:

Work out for at least 10 minutes.

Drink 64 ounces of water.

Eat 2 kinds of veggies.

Read a book for 15 minutes.

Turn off all electronics for 1 hour.

Set aside 10 special minutes to “check in” with your spouse. Just talk.

Give someone a genuine compliment.

Journal for 10 minutes.

Write down 5 things you’re grateful for.

Meditate or pray for 10 minutes.

Do a 5-minute yoga sequence every morning or night.

Look in the mirror and say something nice about yourself.

Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal.

Take 5 minutes to do absolutely nothing.

Do 20 push-ups.

Do a plank.

Tweet a positive thought.

Write an affirmation.

Listen to classical music in the car or while getting ready in the morning.

Write your bucket list (either lifetime or before a certain age), adding one new item each day.

Set aside 15 devoted minutes to brainstorm about how to make your dream project a reality.

Visit a blog you’ve never been to and leave a comment.

Eat slower: set your fork down after every bite.

No soda.

No processed foods.

No escalators or elevators.

Go for a walk (anywhere, any distance).

Check Facebook just once a day.

10 push-ups per commercial break when watching TV.

Snack only on raw veggies.

I’m going to go for the push-ups. I love me some push-ups lately. Off to print my calendar!

If you’re looking for a more organized new year challenge, check out what’s going on over at Challenge Loop (and potentially win stuff!):

Here’s to a happy, positive-habit-filled 2014!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

sarah z. January 3, 2014 at 8:36 am

i love the idea of 31 days of SOMETHING! we can all do SOMETHING every day. :)

i love the suggestions you provided. i think i need to start snacking on only raw veggies. THAT would make an impact for sure!

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Kim January 3, 2014 at 8:44 am

Agreed! Good luck! :)

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Molly January 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

I’m loving this idea and I’m definitely going to try it out! It seems like something that could really work for me because I love marking things off calendars and feeling accomplished. Thanks for the tip and happy new year!
Molly recently posted…happy new year! / 2014My Profile

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Kim January 3, 2014 at 8:44 am

You’re welcome and good luck!!

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Emily @SinfulNutrition January 2, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Love this idea! I think I’m going to write up my calendar tomorrow. What better way to spend a snow day than some health challenges!

P.S Yoga pants are my dress pants on the weekends. Live in them.
Emily @SinfulNutrition recently posted…What Does the New Year Say?My Profile

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Kim January 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

Seriously, yoga pants don’t even look that bad in public. And they go with everything. :)

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Katie @ running4cupcakes January 2, 2014 at 8:08 am

Perfect idea Kim! I love just focusing on one thing, because if you try to do it all or make too many changes at once, that usually just sets you up for not maintaining anything. .. I wrote a list of aspirations for this year. . . things I would like to achieve, but the world isn’t going to end if I don’t!

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Karen January 1, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I love the ideas on the list!
I also rang in the New Year with a tv marathon–mine was Once Upon a Time!
Karen recently posted…13 from 2013My Profile

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Kim January 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

Perfect! Glad I’m not the only one.

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Kim @ Hungry Healthy Girl January 1, 2014 at 8:18 pm

I like this idea a lot!! I think I’m going to picking something new each day. Spending New Year’s Eve watching Breaking Bad is not a bad way to spend New Year’s Eve at all!
Kim @ Hungry Healthy Girl recently posted…First What I Ate Wednesday of 2014!My Profile

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Kim January 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

It sure wasn’t. :) Good luck with your challenge!

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Kim January 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I love the idea of making a small change and turning it into a daily habit!!
And, your list is such a great way to get started on this!
Happy 2014!
Kim recently posted…2014: New Year with New OpportunitiesMy Profile

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Julie January 1, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I love all this. I can’t check facebook only once per day though. I didn’t set an unplug goal but maybe I should!
Julie recently posted…WIAW: New Year’s Eve/DayMy Profile

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Brooke@SweetnSweaty.com January 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm

My thoughts on resolutions are the same! I am making a “to do” list rather for 2014 of things I want to do!! I love the idea of taking on challenges for a set amount of time like you have suggested here! I am going to try to do yoga everyday at home for 31 days! I gave up soda 3 years ago for lent and haven’t been a soda drinker since! The discipline of committing to 40 days in the end made me realize I felt much better without it in my life everyday! If I want one now I have one but it’s few and very far between!

Thanks for sharing!
Brooke
Brooke@SweetnSweaty.com recently posted…Happy New Year and Top 3 Health & Wellness Purchases of 2013My Profile

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