But spring is a great time to reset, declutter and recalibrate your mind and goals. Research suggests that spring may be one of the best times to start a new habit or make a change.
Studies show that tying a goal or resolution to a specific day or time of year — such as a birthday, New Year’s Day or the first day of spring — increases the chance of success, a phenomenon known as the “fresh start effect.”
Studies at the Wharton School show that the fresh start effect is particularly strong in spring. In one experiment, people were urged to save for retirement using different “temporal landmarks.” They could start saving right now or pick a future date such as New Year’s, a birthday or the first day of spring. After several months, the people who focused on saving on their birthdays or the start of spring had saved 20 to 30 percent more than the other groups.
Spring is often not an obvious time for goal setting, said Katy Milkman, professor at Wharton and author of “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”
“But it pops when you point out that it’s the perfect fresh start,” she said. “The season — Easter, Passover, Ramadan — pick your renewal holiday. All of the religions have it pegged, but in regular life without religious prompting we can use it, too.”
Motivation can “wax and wane,” and that’s why, Milkman said, the best fresh starts are tied to a single action with some built-in factor that will help you keep going. Enroll in a 401(k) or a savings plan with automatic deductions. Sign up for a fitness class or gym membership, and you’ll be reminded by the monthly bill.
You can also make fresh starts in small ways.
- Put a notebook on your nightstand and use it to download all your thoughts and worries before you try to go to sleep.
- Commit to scheduling a physical, mammogram or dental appointment.
- Plan a trip — studies show we get a happiness boost just by planning a fun vacation.
- Solve a problem that has been on your mind — organize passwords, start using a financial planning app or sign up for meditation reminders.
- Start reading the book you haven’t found time to read.
Spring is also a great time to take a personal inventory, said Jack Groppel, an executive coach and professor of exercise and sport science at Judson University in Elgin, Ill. Use these questions to help you tune into your goals and priorities.
- How do you want to be remembered?
- How do you want people to describe you?
- Who do you want to be?
- Who or what matters most to you?
- What are your deepest values?
- How do you define success in your life?
- What makes life worth living?
Write down your answers and reflect on how well you’re achieving your goals.
Groppel notes that your goals and values can shift based on your circumstances. For instance, his priorities changed once he adopted his son. Asking these questions can help you recalibrate and find a new “north star” to help guide decisions and assess if you’re staying on track.
“As we go through life, there are life changes that, for whatever reason, mean we need to ask ourselves those questions again and again,” Groppel said. “Spring is such a good time to reset and say, ‘Okay. We’ve come out of the dormancy of winter, and it’s time to take a look at this.’”
Don’t miss this great story from my colleagues at The Washington Post about a generational change in beauty standards sweeping Brazil. Marina Lopes writes:
“For generations of women in Brazil, aging has been out of the question.
“In the plastic-surgery-obsessed country, many go under the knife as early as possible to nip, tuck and pull themselves back to youth. Brazil leads the world in procedures per capita, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Its beauty industry is one of the world’s largest.
“But now, some women are defying expectations: They’re embracing their wrinkles and white locks on magazine covers, television and social media. These women are trying to change the face of Brazil by challenging long-accepted — and expected — standards for female beauty.”
Here’s more news from the Well+Being team.
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