How to harness the Fresh Start Effect to create new habits for the year ahead.


Have you heard? New year resolutions are out! It takes more than an (unrealistic) resolution to harness motivation and create sustainable long-term changes to behavior. 

But the start of a new year (or a new month, or a new week!) is still a good time to be thinking about what new habits you want to introduce to help achieve life goals. Here’s why…


What is the Fresh Start Effect?

The Fresh Start Effect is a psychological phenomenon - researchers have observed people are better at tackling goals when they start on a ‘temporal landmark’, such as the start of a new year, the start of the month, or even a birthday or anniversary.

The reason this works seems to be because ‘firsts’ have a way of decoupling your past performance with future performance. This works particularly well if it relates to something you have not been successful at in the past. A Fresh Start can help us bounce back from failure by offering a clean slate to try again!

But be warned, Fresh Starts work both ways - if you have successfully achieved a goal in the past, the start of a new temporal landmark can bring lower levels of motivation to reach this goal again.

With this in mind, here’s how you can introduce positive new habits into your life - and keep them going throughout the year (and beyond).

  1. Firstly, write down and reflect on everything you achieved last year (or last month!) - this should include things you learned, projects you completed, new experiences you had or friends you made. Even failures or losses count too, if you learned something from them!
  2. Set goals (not resolutions!) - a goal should clearly state what you want to achieve, the steps you need to take to get there, and when you want to achieve it by. Make sure your new goals are different to your past achievements to take advantage of the momentum that comes with the Fresh Start Effect.
  3. Turn those goals into habits - a well-crafted set of habits can help us reach goals without even having to think. Once formed, habits are automatic and can last well beyond the timeframe of our initial goal. Start small with habits - if your goal is to write a book, start by writing 500 words a day; if your goal is to learn to meditate, start with a simple 5 minutes guided meditation each morning. 

Heat Healer Founder Lauren Dovey shares her goals and habits for the year ahead.

  • Better sleep hygiene: ‘I received a Bellabeat wellness tracker for Christmas and so my goal for the year ahead is to ensure I am getting 8+ hours sleep, at least 5 nights of the week. The habits that I have already introduced to help me achieve this include turning off all screens an hour before bedtime, dimming the lights in the house once I’ve put the kids to bed, and every Sunday evening I take a 20 minute sauna an hour before bed - the rise and fall in my core temperature really helps me fall asleep faster and feel more rested the next day.’
  • Vedic meditation: ‘I recently experienced an incredible Vedic Meditation course in Sydney’s Double Bay - this kind of meditation helps to increase resilience to stress, as well as improving concentration, memory and energy levels. My goal by the end of this year is to reach the recommended 20 minutes of Vedic meditation, twice a day. I’m not quite there yet, but I plan to nurture this habit by committing to doing 20 minutes during my daily sauna and once this habit is firmly embedded I’m going to work up to twice a day by the end of the year.’
  • Creativity and inspiration: ‘It’s so important to dedicate time and space to allow creativity and inspiration to arrive. Sauna is great for helping to banish mental blockages, but this year I want to carve out more regular opportunities to be inspired. This is why I’m going to do twice-weekly hikes in nature and I’ve booked in a number of ‘off-the-grid’ (ie no internet!) holidays with just my husband and kids. Time with my family gives me the opportunity to completely switch off from work and I always find that when I return from one of these trips I have so many exciting new ideas to explore for Heat Healer!’