New Year, New Habits, New You!

For many, New Year’s Resolutions are as fleeting as the Ball Drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve; over before they’ve even begun! The vow to cut carbs or go to the gym daily is given up on January 1, perhaps because bagels at home sound better than making a smoothie and heading out into the cold and into a possibly crowded gym. The unknown can be scary, psyching us out, flooding our thoughts with excuses.

Research has shown that our brain can be working against us in our quest to create new habits! The brain may prefer a familiar routine over an unfamiliar one where the results are unknown. UCLA Research concluded this through studies of  fMRI scans of the brain. Functional MRI ( fMRI) scans detect brain activity by measuring the changes of blood flow in the brain. 

In this UCLA study, when participants were shown pictures of themselves, an area of their brain lit up.  Then, they viewed a picture of a stranger, which lit up a different area of the brain. Next, the same participants were asked to picture themselves in the future, which lit up the same area of the brain as when they were shown pictures of a stranger.

We can extrapolate that our brain thinks about our future self like a stranger walking down the street. This lack of visualization to draw upon to help us “see” our future goals may be one reason breaking bad habits and replacing them with good habits is so difficult for many people.

Even New Year’s Resolutions are unpopular. In a 2012 study by the University of Scranton, less than 45% of Americans make New Year Resolutions, with “losing weight” being the most chosen resolution. Additionally, 25% of all Americans in the study gave up on their resolutions within the first week.

Don’t despair! There are tips and tricks to form good habits. If you want to eat healthier or exercise more in 2020, here are some ideas from the BeneFIT Physical Therapy Staff.

Flexible Timeframes

First things first, it is long past due to put that myth of “habits forming in 21 days” to rest. Most habits take longer than 21 days to become a routine. The loss of “x” pounds in a 3 week plan is mostly a gimmick. Keeping weight off requires complete lifestyle changes that are difficult maintain over time.

The reality is that forming new habits take different lengths of time to achieve; there is no one size fits all plan for breaking old habits and creating new ones. Forming new habits is a marathon, not a sprint!

Some healthy tips include creating short-term achievable goals. Setting time frames are important, but be flexible.

Write down EVERYTHING

A snippet from DPT Brian Ireland’s notebook.

The notebook is your friend! Create a food and exercise log. Write down a sample meal and snack plan as well as exercises for at home and on the go!

F.I.T. Exercises 

F.I.T. is an acronym regarding the exercises or activities you do to monitor progress. For example, let’s imagine you are preparing to run in a 5K this Spring.

Frequency: This relates to how often you perform a specific excercise or routine. In regards to preparing for a 5k, you could start by performing your exercise routine once a week. The next week you could increase the freqeuency to 2 or 3 times a week.

Intensity: This relates to the difficulty of the exercise. For your first week you might want to walk a mile once a week. Increase intensity by walking and jogging in week 2.

Time : This relates to how long you exercise. For example,  in week 1 you may find you can walk a mile in 20 minutes. In week 2,  your goal would be to decrease this time frame.

Consistency is Key

Less excuses, just do it! If you fall off your plan, don’t throw in the towel. Note it, and tomorrow begin anew. Bring variety into your routine; mix it up with strengthening excercises, cardio, weight training, sports and recreational activities. Even switching from riding the elevator to taking the stairs is a small step towards big results!

Every day is a new beginning! Hnh

If you want help making your New Year Resolutions a reality call us to come in for a free a screening at either the BeneFIT Chester (908-879-5700) or Bridgewater, NJ (908-203-5200) location. We look forward to seeing you! 

 

Woman running in snow