I love the beginning of the school year – there’s something about the smell of a freshly ironed new shirt, the sight of perfectly sharpened pencils all lined up neatly and the blank canvas of an unopened exercise book that makes me feel especially determined to do my very best over the coming year.
And I’m 44 years old!
Maybe it’s because I spent so many years studying, but for me September feels like the perfect time to start something new – like blogging every week.
Anything that gives us a sense of ‘new start’ can help us to form new habits.
Many people make traditional New Year’s resolutions. I do too, but I rarely manage to stick to them! After the excesses of Christmas I typically vow to swerve comfort food and get up earlier to exercise for longer. However, the cold, dark days of January don’t seem conducive to actually achieving this.
The availability of delicious seasonal autumn fruits and relatively balmy September mornings make it much easier for me to stay on the good health habits wagon.
The fact that all my routines have altered whilst my children have been on holiday from school also makes it easier to do things in a different way.
~Start when it’s easiest~
Perhaps another reason my January resolutions so often fall by the wayside is that they are often not very well thought through. The whirlwind of the festive season typically doesn’t give me much time to reflect on what I really, really want to achieve. My New Year’s resolutions tend to be the same old chestnuts, scribbled hastily in a brand-new diary without much thought about why I’ve selected those challenges and zero planning as to how I might achieve them.
On the other hand, in September, I’m usually lucky enough to have recently enjoyed the luxury of a summer holiday with plenty of time and headspace to visualise how I’d like the next year to unfold and the steps I need to take and habits I need to form to make it happen. Clarity about what you want for the future is pretty important when it comes to making change.
Many people set a date as the start line for a new habit or behaviour. Some people use their birthdays, other use the start of a new month or the start of the week.
It may be that the act of setting a start date is more important than the start date per se as research suggests that smokers who set a ‘quit date’ have a much higher chances of success than those who don’t.
A definite start date allows us to plan and thus improve our chances of success. We can also choose to make our intentions public – and that can make it harder to go back on our word.
~ Start when you have a plan~
However, there are plenty of very successful people who would argue that the best time to start something is now! These people may well have a point. After all if it’s really important to you to make a change why put it off? Isn’t that just procrastination? It’s easy to imagine that we will somehow magically have more willpower next Monday than today or on January the 1st than December 31st.
With health behaviour changes such as going on a diet or reducing alcohol there is also the risk of overindulging before the start date. People often mistakenly believe that having a feast before the fast so to speak will make things easier come the start date. Unfortunately the reverse is usually true. Typically the more alcohol, sugary food etc we have, the more we want – probably another reason I don’t do so well in January!
When you have a strong motivation to make a change, it can be possible to achieve great results without much forward planning at all. Sometimes this motivation arises as a result of a big life change such as a health scare or bereavement or sometimes a new romantic relationship, new job or becoming a parent.
As a GP and health coach I’ve witnessed many a woman who has managed to stop drinking or smoking overnight on discovering that she is pregnant. As the saying goes – when you really know why you can figure out the how.
~Start when you have a good reason~
There probably is no perfect time to start a new habit but if you have a plan; you’ve made the timing easy on yourself and, most importantly, you have a compelling reason then now is a good time to start.
Best of luck x
Do you have a favourite time of year or a special date when you start new habits? Or perhaps you always start straight away as soon as an idea strikes? Do you have a success story you’d be willing to share?
I’d love to hear from you.