Habit – A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
Welcome to 2021. Did you set some New Year resolutions. Lose weight? Exercise more? Start some new venture? Stop smoking? What about for your family and your intimate relationship? Are any of your resolutions in that area of your life?
Chances are that the resolutions you set are about yourself to try to kickstart something healthy or stop something unhealthy. Healthy habits help sustain us and bring consistent vitality. Relationships also need to be sustained and kept vital and so building good habits is important here as well.
What are relationship habits? Anything that serves and supports the relationship. They could be about spending quality time together, havign fun, learning together, communication, partnership around the home or just about anything that is important to you The key element of a healthy habit is that it is settled and regular and is … well … healthy.
In our relationship we have established habits around vulnerable communication, household chores, expressing gratitude and exclusive couple time (without the kids). And the end of the year is a perfect time to review where we are and renew our habits with resolutions.
If you did set resolutions, how are you making progress with them? New Year resolutions have a reputation for being short lived and rarely sustained. This does not mean resolutions are a waste of time, but rather how we approach them could usually be improved.
There is a reason that New Year is often a time to set some new habits – because it is the start of a time cycle. One way we psychologically track progress is through the cycles of time. Hourly, Daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. The start of a time cycle is a perfect time to introduce change because we start with a clean slate. If a resolution drops it is easier to restart at the next time cycle rather than part way through it. There are many reasons why our good intentions can slip and they are not all down to lack of self-discipline. If we break a resolution or allow a habit to fall by the wayside then it is comforting to know we can restart at the start of the next cycle.
This is also why New Year resolutions rarely lead to lasting change.
When an annual resolution slips then there is just too long before the next cycle starts. If I haven’t been to the gym 3 times a week by the end of the first week of January then I have 51 weeks to wait until I have the physchological start point to reset.
For this reason I highly recommend choosing a shorter time cycle for resolutions and habit changing. If I set my resolutions weekly or monthly then not only is it easier to reset, it is also easier to review and flex those resolutions. Progress is highly motivating and so lack of progress is the opposite. I want to set resolutions where I can tangibly see progress even if small. The shorter the time cycle, the easier it is to see progress and to keep going.
Consider all these 21 day or 30 day challenges that are so popular. A 365 day challenge is just too big and the progress so small that we can easily lose focus and determination to see it through. 21 days though is less ambitious and so much easier to reach.
Mona and I find that monthly is the best rhythm for us. At the end of every month we set individual and couple habits or resolutions (about 12 in total). On the last day of each month we review and celebrate success. We look at the habits that didn’t really get started and adapt our intentions – either to renew commitment or adapt the resolution so it is more realistic. To help remind us daily, we track our habits on sheet attached to the fridge. It works well for us and have noticed just this practice of attention makes a positive difference.
In short – resolutions and habits are important to keep us and our relationship healthy. Focus on progress even if small and so set resolutions more often than only once a year.