Puzzle with a hand holding a piece labeled "Change" and an open space in the puzzle labeled "Habits."
Health & Wellness

Why It’s So Hard to Change Your Habits

By on 01/02/2019

You’ve just turned the page on the calendar and are determined this is the year you’re going to finally change some of your less-than-desirable habits. If you’re among the 40% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, congratulations!

But keep in mind that to see lasting change, you have to do more than just make a resolution. Research suggests only about 8% of Americans stick with their resolutions by year-end. That’s because it’s hard to change habits for more than a few days or a few weeks.

If you don’t want to be among the vast majority of people who let their well-intentioned resolutions fall by the wayside, here’s some insight on why it’s tough to change your habits – and what you can do to make it more likely you’ll be successful.

  • Setting a goal. Don’t be unrealistic about the habits you want to change or the goal you set. When you set small, attainable goals, you’re more likely to stick with what you have to do to reach those goals. For example, it’s overwhelming to decide on January 1st you’re going to lose 50 pounds. Instead, focus on losing 5 or 10 pounds. When you achieve that goal, set another.
  • Defining your goal. It’s difficult to change your habits when your goal is open-ended. Make your goal specific and measurable so you can track your progress and make tweaks as needed. For example, instead of proclaiming you’re going to work out more this year so you can lose weight, plan to walk after dinner 3 times a week for 20 minutes each.
  • Planning ahead. Often resolution-makers get caught up in the goal setting but not necessarily the goal planning. But if you want to sustain your habit changes, lay out how you’re going to achieve your goals. For example, want to eat healthier at work? Plan to shop for groceries, meal-prep and package healthy lunches and snacks on Sunday so they’re ready to grab on your way out the door.
  • Rewarding yourself. Changing habits over the long-term is hard work. As you make changes or meet short-term goals, recognize how far you’ve come and reward yourself for the work you’ve done. For example, after you lose those first 10 pounds, buy yourself a new workout outfit to celebrate the achievement. As an added bonus, it may just inspire you to keep moving forward!

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Date Last Reviewed: November 13, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.