A new year is a new beginning that prompts many people to count their wins and losses in the past year and make plans to improve their life for the following year.
Researchers called people’s tendency to change their lifestyle on dates meaningful to them, such as the new year or a birthday, “The Fresh Start Effect.”
If you ever made a new year’s resolution to find yourself beating yourself up because you didn’t stick to it within a couple of weeks, then know that you are not alone.
Why is it so hard to stick to your new year’s resolution?
Your ways of being in the world developed in response to life experiences.
I always thought of my memories as something buried somewhere in my brain, but now I understand that my life experiences are embedded in every cell of my body.
While it is true that you store your memories in the hippocampus, neocortex, and amygdala, your memories are also stored in water found within your cells and in the intercellular matrix.
Your life experiences shaped who you are. Your habits develop as an adaptive survival mechanism, physical and emotional, to life, thus creating the underlying beliefs which guide your everyday behaviors.
We sabotage change because we fight against our bodies. The cell in the body remember what happened to us since we were born, our family’s history, and the history of the human race. These memories remind us of what kept us safe in the past and hold us from making changes.
Even if your mind tells you something is good for you, it feels like a threat to your body.
To make a change, you need to change not only your behavior but also the underlying assumption that shaped said behavior. Change becomes a challenge because it triggers an anxiety response.
When you attempt to make a lifestyle change, you literally walk against the stream of your unconscious memories.
Does that mean that I can not make any lifestyle changes?
No, You can make a lifestyle change, but you need to consider that any lifestyle change will require not just a conscious decision but listening to your body and heart while also acting on your decision.
How does it work?
When you decide to change your lifestyle, you need to involve your entire being. That includes:
- Your gut – The seat of your intuition, passion, and motivation. Your hunger for achieving your goals is the fire that will start the change process.
- Your mind and heart – Digging into the conscious and unconscious assumptions that guide your behavior is essential for making a life change.
- Your hands – Tipping your toe in the water can provide information about how your mind and heart feel about the change. Learning new skills can ease you into the changes.
When you set your mind on changing your lifestyle, you need to find a solid motivation to keep you moving in the right direction. When doing so, you want to consider the benefits and prices of changing your lifestyle.
For example, if your new year resolution is to lose weight, the benefits might be a better health trajectory, feeling good in your body, or being able to fit into the dress you love, but the price might be giving up on sweets or avoiding going out to restaurants.
In my experience, people change when the price for not changing is pain, be it physical or mental.
The Mind Heart Connection
When considering a life change, you want to pay attention to your mindset and feelings.
Paying attention to your thoughts alone creates a blind spot if your body reacts with stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety will cause you to pull back to avoid the threat your body anticipates with the change.
At the same time, you can not feel differently if you do not think differently, meaning you need a change in mindset. You will need to let go of beliefs formed earlier in your life as an adaptive response to your life experiences, which had an essential function in keeping you safe.
At its core, changing your lifestyle is not limited to changing what you are doing; it is changing who you are being.
Let’s go back to the new year resolution of weight loss. The benefits might be a better health trajectory, feeling good in your body, or fitting into the dress you love. Still, if you have an underlying fear of attracting too much attention to yourself, you might exert a lot of energy to lose weight but might regain it right away.
Most people that lose weight regain it later because they change their eating habits but do not change the underlying beliefs that created their eating habits.
The only way out of this conundrum is connecting with the fear of attracting attention (or any other fear that stops you from manifesting your goal) and understanding where it comes from and what feeds it.
Changing your thinking and feeling without changing your behavior is immobility. Success is achieved by taking intentional steps toward changing your lifestyle.
Taking the first steps might trigger the heart and mind response and help you unveil your deeper fears and assumptions. You might discover that your beliefs cost you much more than you thought to begin with.
If we go back to the weight loss example, the fear of attracting attention might keep you from creating friendships or stop you from voicing your ideas in your workplace.
In my experience, when I set a goal that is too high and lofty, I set myself up for failure. Making small steps helps you find the sweet spot between total stagnation and triggering an anxiety response that will hold you back from making any changes.
Making small steps can also allow you to acquire new skills that will ease you into the changes you want to master.
Whatever your new year resolution was, remember that your “old habits” are adaptive protective mechanisms and, as such, are not bad or wrong.
Setbacks are part of the process and can be perceived as an opportunity to learn more about the fear and beliefs that hold you back.
Practicing self-love is an essential part of the process. You reinforce your underlying anxiety when you beat yourself for slipping off the track.
In my programs, I always take special care to work with mindset, self-love, and reducing stress and anxiety to achieve a breakthrough in changing lifestyle and health trajectory.