For many of us, a new year means making resolutions to change some of our habits and committing to doing things differently. The statistics of how many people actually don’t follow through with their resolutions even by February are staggering. Most people give up within the first couple of weeks because those bad habits from ‘last year’ can be very hard to change.

Habits help us navigate the world, whether we are aware of them or not. The fact is, habits become deeply ingrained in our brains, which means that even if a particular habit creates more problems than it solves, we will tend to repeat this behaviour, anyway. Understanding how habits take shape, to begin with, may help dismantle and replace them with more helpful automatic behaviours.

One reason is – we are all creatures of habit, and habits are efficient: We can perform functional tasks without wasting time and energy deliberating about what to do. This tendency toward quick responses can backfire as they can be the things that lead us to unhealthy behaviours, particularly when we get stressed or busy.

Old habits can be difficult to shake, and healthy habits are often harder to develop than we sometimes realise. But through repetition, it’s possible to form and maintain new practices. Even long-time habits that are detrimental to our health and wellbeing can be changed with enough determination and a smart approach.

Building healthy habits can involve:

· Put yourself in situations where you are more likely to engage in the desired behaviour.

· Planning your time so you can repeat the desired behaviour.

· Attaching a small reward to the behaviour that doesn’t impede it (such as listening to music while exercising or having a healthy snack after completing the task).

While intrinsic motivation can push us to engage in new behaviours, incentives or rewards are most likely to help with habit-building by getting us to engage in the hoped-for behaviour, such as eating healthy or working out.

By allowing yourself little rewards each time you display healthy habits, you will start to not only change the destructive behaviours but also, through consistency, build new habits into your life. Very soon, the rewards will no longer be necessary, and the desired habits will become an intrinsic part of your everyday life