Making Healthier Habits in the New Year

I'm not someone who is naturally drawn to routine and habit making.  (It's why I created the Anti-meal plan after all.)  Before I started cooking, I studied musical performance for many years, so I think the enjoyment of improvisation and ephemera is just key to who I am.  Most of the time, I don't have a lot of consistency and habits and most of the time I'm happy that way.  Most of the time.

But some of the time, I actually really hate that I don't keep the routines that I actually do like.  Planning ahead for meals, working out, writing in the morning, catching up with friends--these are definitely things I do all the time, but they take up a lot of mental space since I'm constantly deciding when or how or if I should do them.  One paradoxical thing about being born on New Years Day, is that while "resolutions" aren't really a part of my nature, something about having my birthday coincide with a new calendar year actually does make me want to make some changes on that day.  

That's why one of my favorite reads of 2015 was Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before.  Gretchen is a writer and podcast-host who shares light, fun and actionable advice on making habits.  Unlike me, she is a habit queen, but her approach is all about using self-knowledge to create habits that work for you, not that just work for habit queens.  I read her book twice last fall and have become obsessed with her podcast Happier.  She shares simple strategies, like "make it convenient" "schedule it" or "get external accountability" but explains why they might work for certain personalities and not others.

One piece of insight from Gretchen that I heard on last week's podcast was that you can't make resolutions about outcomes.  Whether it's lose 5 lbs, save X amount of money, or have a baby, we really don't have control over what happens.  We can stack the deck in our favor with good habits and a strategy, but ultimately no matter how regimented we are, we can't actually control outcomes.  It sounds pretty obvious but it was actually very eye-opening for me.  So I took some of my tentative New Year's resolutions and made them not about outcomes, but instead about action.  Not only can I control the action, but having the step outlined for me right there in the goal makes me so much more likely that I will act and not just dream.

A couple of my goals for 2016:

1. Eat healthier turned into grocery shop every Sunday.  

Ok, ok so there were actually a lot of problems with the goal "eat healthier."  Most glaringly that it's wildly unspecific.  But also "healthy" is really a word that applies to me as a person, not to my food.  So while I hope that eating quality whole foods will strengthen my body, boost my immunity and improve my energy, it's not a guarantee of those outcomes.  So instead, I made my goal to grocery shop every Sunday.  Grocery shopping on Sundays is a keystone habit for me.  It forces me to think about my schedule for the coming week and make plans accordingly.  As someone who naturally resists routine, starting off the week organized makes me extra excited and happy.  GO ME.

Two tools I'm using to help solidify the Sunday grocery shopping habit are Paprika, a meal planning app, and Instacart, a grocery shopping and delivery service.  While I generally like to improvise and do some shopping at the Sunday farmer's market in my neighborhood, these tools will help make my habit happen no matter want.  Curious about how I'm using them?  Join my free Clean Slate reboot starting January 18.  

2. Read 4 books a month turned into read before bed every weeknight.

I love reading fiction, personal development books (obviously), and cookbooks, so I knew I wanted to prioritize reading in 2016.  But instead of a "# of books read" goal, I decided to read before bed and not be concerned with how many books I was churning through.  Reading helps my mind slow down at the end of the day, so this routine should help my sleep too.  I love a good two-fer.

3. Go on weekend trip turned into book a weekend trip.

So this might sound like a really nitpicky distinction, but for me, it's a really important one.  While I'm generally a pretty bold person--I've leapt into decisions like starting a business, starting a late night show or moving to India for a summer (twice)--for some reason, booking air travel makes me go full on deer in headlights.  Anyone else??  Something about the high cost or the permanence makes me resist actually planning the trip and I end up missing out on something I really wanted to do.  So this year, I'm making it my goal to book travel, not to take it.  

Have you read Gretchen's book?  What are your goals in 2016?