You might think that when it comes to starting a healthy new habit or big new project, there’s no time like the present. One day should be as good as the next for your first trip to the gym or working session. But that’s not what psychology says.
As in so many other things, humans are less than rational when it comes to new beginnings. It’s simply easier to get started with something new when there is some big temporal marker or life change to signal the beginning of a new phase. This is called the “fresh-start effect” and it explains why New Year’s resolutions are so popular and enrollment in weight-loss programs rises at “back-to-school time” in the fall.
It’s also why now is the perfect time to reimagine your life and your routine.
The perfect “fresh start” to revamp your life
The pandemic, both psychology and personal experience tell us, forced many of us to reexamine our values and our lives, and take a harder look at how well the two line up. Now that vaccines are slowly bringing the worst of the crisis to an end in the U.S., we’re not only armed with new knowledge about the kind of lives we truly want to live, but circumstances are also offering us the perfect “fresh start” to give a psychological boost to your efforts to revamp your life.
What’s the best way to take advantage of this opportunity? Writing for The New York Times recently, Tara Parker-Pope offers a suggestion — why not try a 10-day challenge to reset and refocus as you begin to settle into whatever your life is going to look like post-pandemic?
Short, sharp challenges are a great way to kick-start change at any time, but now is a particularly good time to undertake a full-on personal improvement plan. “We have this opportunity with this blank slate to change our health habits and be very conscientious about our day,” Katy Milkman, a Wharton professor and author of a new book titled How to Change, tells Parker-Pope. “What is our lunch routine going to look like? What is our exercise routine? There’s an opportunity to rethink. What do we want a workday to look like?”
The pandemic shattered our previous routines. Our new ones aren’t yet set in stone. So get experimenting, the article urges, before helpfully laying out a 10-day plan of exercises and small pilot projects to help you get started. They range from simple prompts to help you better pinpoint your true state of mind to ideas for squeezing more movement, mindfulness, or true human connection into your day.