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How to start new habits for a new year

To set New Year’s resolutions that stick, tend to both your own state of mind and your surrounding environment.
Catholic Voices

When I was about 8 years old, my mom bought a book in Spanish called Créalo, Sí Se Puede (Believe It, Yes You Can) by the Mexican motivational speaker Alex Dey. It wasn’t my first brush with self-improvement books: I had already tried to read How to Win Friends & Influence People (Pocket Books) by Dale Carnegie. With all of its business comparisons and older writing style, I decided to only read the headings and call it a day after the first chapter. After all, I was only 8.

But Dey’s book was different. It had drawings—not drawings for children, but still, drawings. It also had engaging stories that were easy to understand, so easy that I still remember many key concepts, such as the importance of fostering a positive mental attitude, developing new habits, and choosing supportive environments.

As my spouse and I are starting to plan our 2023 goals, some of these concepts have come back to mind, including the importance of having a positive mental attitude: “You are what you are, and you are where you are, because of what you’ve put in your mind.” As an adult, I now understand that many more factors can influence one’s outcome in life than just what one puts in their mind, including socioeconomic, political, and health factors. However, when life throws challenges at us, it is easier to overcome them if we have a positive mindset and hope. If we purposefully and intentionally give more power to positive mindsets than fear or doubt, if we believe that the challenges can be overcome, we can foster a hopeful outlook. Hope is so important that it is one of the three theological virtues in the Christian tradition.

My spouse and I realize that most people, including ourselves, are still dealing with the effects of pandemic-era trauma and change. While there are things we cannot change with positive thinking, we can move forward with hope. Hope is what got us through a pandemic: We are here, we are alive, and we are grateful. We thank God for the lives of our ancestors, including those gone too soon, and we are hopeful for a future where we can continue growing and improving, accompanied by the wisdom of our ancestors, God, and our loved ones.

Another concept from the book that’s been on my mind lately is the concept of habit development. Any repeated thought can become an action, and any repeated action can become a habit. My habits changed a lot during the pandemic, from wearing pajamas with a nice top and blazer to Zoom meetings to staying at home and being less active. It is now time to develop new habits, but for any action to become a habit the action must be sustainable. In other words, it must be a habit we can see ourselves enjoyably repeating for our entire lives. As I pick new health habits, I am trying to be mindful of sustainability and hoping I can learn to cook some healthy, yet delicious recipes.

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Finally, as I develop new goals, I’m paying attention to my environment. Sometimes it is hard to develop a good habit if those in our immediate environment are not supportive or outright discouraging us from achieving our goal. I guess the more colloquial term for this would be peer pressure. My spouse and I have decided to start developing good habits together, but friends and extended family also play a role. So part of my new goal is to reconnect with friends and family while fostering supportive relationships. I’ve also put an old copy of Believe It, Yes You Can on my nightstand. After all, I still very much enjoy the drawings. 


This article also appears in the January 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 1, page 9). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Unsplash/Maddi Bazzocco

About the author

Yunuen Trujillo

Yunuen Trujillo is an immigration attorney, faith-based community organizer, and lay minister. She is the author of LGBTQ Catholics: A Guide for Inclusive Ministry (Paulist Press).

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