building self-esteem Good habits Individual Counseling

Start a New Habit by Changing Your Environment

Grand Rapids Counseling

Many of us try to start a new habit for New’s Year’s resolutions. We resolve to exercise more, eat right, lose weight, and so on. Right about now is when most people abandon them. I’m probably one of the only successful people who have kept their resolution for years. About 25 years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to never bother making a New Year’s Resolution again. I’m happy to say I’ve kept it ever since.

Why Wait Until the New Year?

For me, starting a new habit at the beginning of the year puts a lot of pressure on one day. After all, every day can be the start of a new year so why cram it into just day out of 365? There is some research that supports the idea that if you want to start a new habit, or behavior, you need a cue, or a prompt to do the behavior.

While I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, that doesn’t mean I don’t set goals to have better habits. So for me, one of the more recent habits I’ve started is drinking more water. Overall, water is better for me than the fruit juice I often drink and has fewer calories. I did the math and realized switching from juice to water saves me somewhere between 400 to 600 calories a day. Also, if I drink water more regularly, I’m likely to snack less because I’m not as hungry throughout the day. So what does having a cue or prompt have to do with drinking water? I’ll tell you.

In order to drink more water, I had to create a prompt to drink it. The first thing I did was pick up a clear glass pitcher, fill it with water, and put it in the refrigerator on the top shelf. Every time I open to fridge to get a drink of juice (because I’m thirsty), there’s the water staring me right in the face to remind me to drink it instead of the juice. However, I noticed I was still going too long without drinking water. Being dehydrated tends to make me lethargic, so I wanted to create a prompt to drink water more often.

My solution was simple. I started putting an empty glass on the kitchen counter where I have to look at it every time I walk into the kitchen. I see it and think, “what is that glass sitting there for?”. Then it dawns on me, “oh yeah, I’m trying to drink more water”. So I fill the glass and drink it down.

Here’s Another Idea

I do something similar with laundry. I want to start a new habit where I actually put my laundry away before it gets wrinkled. So, I started putting the laundry basket with the clean clothes on my bed. I made a game of sorts where every time I walk into the bedroom I have to put at least one thing away or hang it up. Once I grab one item I’m more than likely going to take care of two or three items. It’s not long before all the laundry is put away where it belongs.

In my Grand Rapids based counseling practice, I not only help you figure out what changes you want to make, I also help you figure out steps to make it happen. My primary focus is using Solution Focused Brief Therapy, but I like to supplement it with a behavioral approach. Teaching you how we adopt new behaviors and make them stick improves your chances of making lasting positive changes.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, teenagers, and adults.  He can help with anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, relationship problems, and more.  For more information, please visit the website at