Note: This article on tiny habits is written by contributing writer, Tammy Strobel.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about starting new tiny habits. My birthday was in November, so a New Year just began for me. Whether it’s your birthday, a brand new year or another time, it’s helpful to reflect on the past and to consider what you want to do next. Starting fresh is empowering!
Author and researcher Katy Milkman writes about “the power of fresh starts.” Milkman says that when people exit one chapter of life and enter another it is freeing. This gives people a clean slate, and it’s a great opportunity to begin a new tiny habit. You can start fresh on January 1st or on a regular Monday. It’s up to you!
Also, experts recommend making a new habit simple and tiny. According to BJ Fogg – author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything – a tiny habit is “as simple and tiny as possible.” Fogg explains more on the tiny habits method, “… you take any new habit you want, and you scale it back so that it’s super-tiny. In the case of wanting to read more, that might mean reading one paragraph. In the case of meditating, it might be taking three calming breaths. You make it so simple that it’s almost like you have no excuse not to do it. So even when you’re in a rush or you’re sick or you’re distracted, it’s so tiny that you can still do it.”
Fogg encourages people to add new tiny habits to an existing routine, and to tie the tiny habit to positive emotions and/or celebrations. For example, you can celebrate doing your new habit by listening to your favorite song, giving a friend a high five, or by savoring a simple pleasure. The idea is to help yourself feel successful.
These ideas resonate with me and I like that I don’t have to always tie habit formation to motivation or waste mental energy overdoing it. For example, after I’m done writing this paragraph, I will take a short walk. I don’t need to write a novel to celebrate my daily writing progress. I only need to write a page or two each day; sometimes less.
10 Tiny Habits For The New Year That Won’t Wear You Out
You can create any kind of change by harnessing the essence of tiny habits. Behavior changes don’t happen over night, so if things are moving slower than you accept, avoid self- criticism and focus on small adjustments to your current routine. Small actions, simple steps will help you create repetition and consistency developing new habits. If you’re looking for new tiny habits to start in the new year (that won’t wear you out), here are 10 ideas:
1. Create a morning routine
Begin your day with your favorite activities. For example, I love to journal and read in the mornings. To make time for my morning routine, I started with a 5-minute time block. Then I added more time to my routine as the weeks went by. Make a list of your favorite activities and slowly add them to your morning routine.
2. Take a movement break
Add movement breaks to your daily routine. This is a great way to boost energy, reduce stress, and improve flexibility; especially if you have a desk job. For example, after 30 minutes of working on my computer, I get up and take a 5 minute walk or do squats. My tiny movement breaks leave me feeling energized and productive.
3. Start a gratitude practice
Make time each morning, or in the evening, to write down three things that you’re grateful for. Noticing what you’re grateful for can make you happier. Studies suggest that people who write about gratitude are “more optimistic and feel better about their lives.” They also “exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians.”
4. Practice meditation or deep breathing
Want to develop a mindfulness practice? Set aside time for a one-minute meditation or deep breathing break. Meditation and deep breathing are excellent ways to reduce stress, anxiety, improve concentration, and more. It’s amazing to think that you can create a new tiny behavior in one-minute a day.
5. Read for 5 minutes
Usually, I read about 50 books a year. It took time to develop my reading habit, though. I started by dedicating 5 minutes a day to reading a book. Like my morning routine, I slowly increased the amount of time I read daily. Over time, this tiny commitment helped me read more and more books.
6. Simplify your closet with Project 333
On January 1, a new season of Project 333 starts! Courtney Carver said, “In my experience, a simple closet is the gateway to a simple life. Once you experience the benefits of simplicity in your wardrobe, you’ll want it everywhere. Here’s how to get started. Creating a capsule wardrobe removes decision fatigue, reduces expenses and long-term, will change your relationship with stuff and shopping.”
7. Try micro-acts of joy
Join The BIG JOY Project and do one micro-act of joy for “7 minutes a day for 7 days.” Allison Aubrey, a journalist with NPR, says, “All of the recommended micro-acts have been linked to emotional well-being in prior published studies. Examples include making a gratitude list or journal, or engaging in acts of kindness such as visiting a sick neighbor or doing a nice gesture for a friend – or a stranger. Some micro-acts involve celebrating another person’s joy, or engaging in self reflection, meditation, or taking the time to identify the silver lining in a bad situation, known as positive reframing.”
8. Take a tiny walk after a meal
Rather than sitting on the couch after I eat a meal, I’ve been going for a 2 to 5 minute walk. Rachel Fairbank, a journalist with The New York Times, inspired this tiny habit. In her article, Fairbank shared the findings (NYT gift link) of a meta-analysis that “compared the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on measures of heart health, including insulin and blood sugar levels.” Researchers discovered that very tiny walks – between two and five minutes – “had a significant impact in moderating blood sugar levels.”
9. Turn off your digital devices before bedtime
Before going to sleep, I put my phone to bed. Typically, I charge my phone in the kitchen and try to turn it off 30 minutes before I go to sleep. This gives me the opportunity to unwind, reduce stress, and it’s improved the quality of my sleep. If I can’t reach my phone, I won’t find myself doom scrolling before bed.
10. Begin a one line a day journal
Earlier this year, I bought a One Line a Day Diary. It’s my favorite journaling project, and that’s because it’s so simple! In the journal, I write down a meaningful quote or a daily delight. It takes less than five-minutes a day and it’s helped me foster a positive mindset.
Bonus Tips: Let go of rigidity & have fun
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned Katy Milkman’s research. In addition to writing about the power of fresh starts, Milkman talks about the importance of relinquishing rigidity as a way to build consistent habits. According to Milkman’s research, adopting a flexible approach will enable you to stick with new habits. And don’t forget to have fun! Studies suggest that people who make their new habits fun are more likely to stick with them. And what’s more fun than starting a new tiny habit?
Resources to help stick with tiny habits
Do you want to learn more about how to change your habits? Explore the resource list below:
- How to Change by Katy Milkman
- GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg
- NPR’s Life Kit: “Instead of New Year’s resolutions, start and stick with ‘Tiny Habits’”
- NPR’s Life Kit: “A behavioral scientist’s advice for changing your life.”
- The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos “will take you through the latest scientific research and share some surprising and inspiring stories that will change the way you think about happiness.” The episodes have also helped start and stick with new habits.