New Year, New Habit!

Create habits

New Year, New Habits!

It can be difficult to discuss January without using the word new – new year, new start, New Year’s resolution, and sometimes even a new waist size after indulging in one-too-many holiday treats! No matter the ‘new’ you envision, ideas of starting a new habit – practicing mindfulness, calling family more often, or embracing gratitude  – run through our minds at year’s open. But what is a habit, really? It can be tempting for us to make habit building complicated. However, researchers remind us that habits can be simple, automatic responses to simple environmental cues. So, let’s give our lofty New Year’s resolutions a break for a moment, and explore what we really need to know about setting sustainable habit goals this year.

I am sure many of us can think of one or two bits of advice about habit formation we’ve heard over the years. Maybe, like me, you have been told that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology concluded that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days – 66 days on average – to build a solid habit. Now, before you become completely overwhelmed by the idea of potentially waiting more than 8 months to make that morning walk a routine, the same study suggests that many factors play a role in determining how fast habits are formed and how strong those habits will be.

The good news – success is simplicity and it starts with what you can control. Studies show that having a realistic plan and repeating simple behaviors within the same or similar settings, every day, has a major effect on reducing the time it takes to form and sustain a new habit! Additionally, the Learning Center at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill recommends that gathering social support from friends or family, as well as building in a reward for following a new routine, further contributes to success.

Well, what does all this mean? In short, consider starting with a simple, achievable act you can repeat every day in the same space, at roughly the time. If your New Year’s resolution is to form a new habit of starting every day with yoga, try the following:

  • Begin your first 1 to 3 weeks by waking up at the same time each day, sitting where you plan to do yoga, and taking a few mindful breaths.
  • Ask a family member or a friend to support you by holding you accountable. (Holding you accountable is different from judging you; we talk about judgment in our “Getting Started in Mindfulness” post earlier this week. Taking part in the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club is another way to hold yourself accountable).
  • When this simpler habit has been built, then add some yoga poses to your morning process.
  • Promise yourself the reward of a special treat after each week that you follow your routine.

Follow these steps and you might just build that new habit in as little as 18 days!  But don’t be discouraged if it takes longer. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off.

Your take-away for today: Turn that New Year’s resolution into a simple habit and make a realistic plan for change. Lucky for you, we have just the tool to get you started! Download this Hunt 4-Health card to start your journey toward healthy habits (the embedded links will take you to an activity; they’re also listed on the back of the card). Grab friends or family and commit to completing the entire card together. Be sure to set up a reward to enjoy when you complete several challenges. The fun of completing the challenges may itself become the reward. Who knows, you might form a new healthy habit!

To take it a step further, follow this link to check out even more healthy offerings on the Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month website. Habit formation is different for everyone, so get creative and make it fun! Your ‘Hunt 4-Health’ starts right now!

Tyler Kessler, 4-H Educator, Adventure Central

Getting Started in Mindfulness

hands hold mug of tea

        Getting Started in Mindfulness

Mindfulness has become a popular term. But what exactly is it? Mindfulness is the ongoing process of paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judging. How can you get started in mindfulness?

To start, let’s break down this definition:

  • On purpose – Doing something on purpose, or being intentional, means you don’t leave it to chance. You make it a priority to use mindfulness techniques and to go about your day in a mindful manner.
  • In the present moment – Often we are worried about things that happened in the past or might happen in the future. This worry overtakes us to the point where we can’t focus on the present. Being mindful means that we focus on what we are experiencing in the here and now. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think ahead and plan, because that’s important too.
  • Without judging – Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves. We get down on ourselves for not doing better and then feel like a failure. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “make the best better” and try to improve our skills. It means we need to be kind to ourselves, because these negative thoughts can actually have the opposite effect – we give up trying to do better. Without judging also applies to how we approach others.

We are also often quick to judge others and their motives. I try (but don’t always succeed) to give people the benefit of the doubt, and hope that people will extend that same consideration to me when I’m having a bad day. I was reminded of this one time on an airplane trip a few years ago. The woman next to me had the air blasting and was fanning herself. I did an internal eyeroll and thought to myself, “This is going to be a long flight.” As we were nearing the end of the trip, we struck up a conversation. It turned out she had been flying all day and was on her way to a funeral of a family member. Boy, did that put me in my place. You never know what someone else is dealing with that might explain their actions. At least I kept my thoughts to myself and didn’t say anything mean to her. It was a good reminder to withhold my judgment. And if there is anything that 2020 taught us, it’s to approach life with a healthy dose of grace.

            Watch: Everyday Mindfulness

Today’s Take-Away: This short video explains what everyday mindfulness is, and how being aware of what is going on around you and inside of you can help make life more enjoyable and less stressful.

Why mindfulness? Research shows that mindfulness can improve mental health and well-being. When young people learn and practice techniques for mindfulness, it can help them pay attention, which can lead to better school performance. It can also reduce stress levels.

As Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, reminds us in her Introduction to Mindfulness fact sheet, the purpose of practicing mindfulness exercises on a regular basis is not necessarily to get better at it. The goal of the practice is to make mindfulness a habit or routine as part of a healthy lifestyle. As the 4-H slogan says, we “learn by doing.” As with anything new, it can take a while for these techniques to seem natural and become part of your routine.

To Learn More…

Mindfulness is a way to bring connection between the brain, mind, body, and behavior. In yesterday’s post, I shared the upcoming Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club. The activities in this SPIN Club, such as yoga and breathing exercises, will help you learn some mindfulness techniques. This SPIN club is a great place to start your mindfulness practice.

Extension Educators Shannon Carter and Pamela Montgomery will be offering a program next week to introduce teen volunteers, adult volunteers, and 4-H parents to the concept of mindfulness. The Mindful Wellness program will be held on January 12 from 5:30-6:30pm. This one-time program is designed to equip healthy people with practices and skills to strengthen the mind and body connection and promote holistic health and wellness across the lifespan.

  • When: January 12 from 5:30-6:30pm
  • Where: Zoom (link sent after registering)
  • Who: Designed for adult volunteers, teen volunteers, and 4-H parents
  • What: Extension Educators Shannon Carter and Pamela Montgomery will lead this session.
  • Cost: It’s free to participate.
  • Register here.

It’s never too early to encourage the practice of mindfulness. In her Cloverbud Connections article, Aubry Fowler, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Fairfield County, shares some ideas for working with Cloverbuds (ages 5 to 8).

We’ll revisit the topic of mindfulness as part of Ohio 4-H’s Mental Health Month. Come back for more information and ideas!

Yours in Health,


Dimensions of Wellness

Health and wellness are broad concepts. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” That means that being healthy is more than just not being sick. Overall wellness includes many areas. It means being healthy in many areas of our lives. Achieving wellness is a lifelong process of “making the best better.” International Mind-Body Wellness Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many dimensions of wellness and the connections between body and mind.

Every aspect of wellness can affect a person’s life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness take into account not only a person’s physical health, but all the things that contribute to a person’s overall wellness. These dimensions are interconnected, each one building on the other.

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

8 Dimensions of Wellness

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

  • physical
  • emotional
  • social
  • intellectual
  • environmental
  • spiritual
  • vocational/occupational
  • financial

For an overview of what each dimension entails, you can view a short 3-minute video from Northwestern University.

Creating balance in our lives is an important part of wellness. When we’re trying to get through a tough time—whether it is stress, an illness, trauma, or an emotional challenge—balance is especially important. In these times, our habits and routines can help us get that feeling of control back. This means focusing on ourselves as well as the roles we play in the lives of others including family member, friend, classmate, and club member.

Maybe you made a New Year’s resolution related to improving some aspect of your health. But maybe, with so many areas to consider, it can seem overwhelming to know where to start. In our posts, we’re going to break it down into more manageable chunks, day by day and week by week.

To start the new year off, we’re offering the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN (special interest) Club to learn fun ways to keep your body and mind healthy. This SPIN club will be offered virtually through Zoom, with live sessions on Tuesdays from 5:30-6:30pm for 6 weeks starting January 19, 2021.

  • When: January 19 and 26 and February 2, 9, 16, and 23 from 5:30-6:30pm
  • Where: Zoom (link sent after registering)
  • Who: This SPIN Club is open to all 4-H ages youth 8 to 18.
  • What: 4-H professionals Frances Foos, Lori Now, Amanda Raines, and Cassie Turner will lead you through Yoga for Kids, games, activities, and more, all from the comfort of your home.
  • Cost: It’s free to participate, but some supplies will be suggested for activities.
  • Register here by January 14.
Promotion for Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club

Register by January 14 for the Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club

We’ll be addressing these dimension of wellness throughout the month of January, Ohio 4-H’s Mental Health Month. Come back for more information and ideas!

Yours in Health,


Adapted from: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Creating a healthier life: A step-by-step guide to wellness.

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