It's gratifying to set ambitious resolutions for the New Year sometime in December when you are still in your pajamas, sitting in front of a fire, drinking wine and eating cake.
Come early January, however, when it's cold and you are trying to get up early to get to the gym, eat more broccoli and write a business plan, it can be a lot less exciting to stick to those resolutions.
Before you despair, turn your alarm off and ditch your business plan for online shopping, here are three scientifically proven techniques to break your bad habits.
Supercharge your willpower
Willpower is another word for self-control, the ability to forego short-term temptations in order to reach long-term goals. For many, a lack of willpower is an excuse for giving up.
There are two common understandings about willpower. One is that it works like a muscle, in that it gets stronger when you use it. The other holds that you have a finite amount of willpower and if you spend a significant amount of energy avoiding, say, cookies early in the day, you will have less later on to motivate you to forego taking an Uber.
But there is also research that suggests that your amount of willpower depends on your thinking about willpower. If you think there is no limit to the amount of willpower you have, then there isn't. You can turn yourself into Rocky by convincing yourself that self-control works.
Dig into your bad habit
Psychiatrist and addiction expert Judson Brewer says that by becoming very mindful about what you are doing and why you are doing it, you can interrupt the existing feedback loop that keeps a bad habit going.
"What if instead of fighting our brains, or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural, reward-based learning process ... but added a twist? What if instead we just got really curious about what was happening in our momentary experience?" asks Brewer in a popular TED talk he gave on the topic.
The part of our brain that understands why we should not fall back on a bad habit, like, for example, smoking, is the same part of the brain that doesn't work well when we are stressed, says Brewer.