Create new habits...the easy way.
One of the trickiest things about making healthy choices is that they require one crucial thing – change! We are very much creatures of habit and breaking those habits can be challenging until we find a new groove.
It can be easy to hope that by changing something we do for a day, or a week, or a month that we should see results. The truth is we must be willing to make long term changes to see long term results. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean “hard” work, but it does require consistency.
These words from the Peak Performance coach, Darren Hardy, ring true: “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
So how do we change our daily routines? Here are a few ideas:
Attach your new habit to an existing one. Say you have a goal of getting more exercise in during the day. Pick something you do daily like brushing your teeth, or changing when you get home from work, and do some form of exercise right after you do that activity or along with it. For example, do 10 squats or calf raises, as you brush your teeth, or right after changing into your pajamas shut off all screens and sit down with a book to prepare for a restful sleep.
Attaching habits becomes easier to stick with than giving ourselves the whole day to do something and then losing it in the shuffle. This idea might sound like a small change, but habits are formed when we create momentum. Our momentum is created by how consistently we follow through on practicing an activity. Often when momentum is created we want to do more and it becomes easier to make more choices connected to that change.
Break it down. When starting new habits, it’s important to remind ourselves that Rome was not built in a day. In your day to day choices, start where you are and start small. Say you want to lose 40 pounds, but you are only feeling frustrated because it seems so far away. Start with 5 pounds first. Remember, 1 – 2 pounds a week is reasonable, more than that can be unrealistic and often only reached through extreme dieting which will lead to yo-yoing. When you lose those 5 pounds, you’ll be excited and ready to break down another 5.
Another example is if you want to adjust your meals, start with breakfast and once you have breakfast down, then move to lunch and so on. Say you don’t have any fruits and veggies in your life, start by bringing in a piece of fruit or two to have before breakfast and lunch to begin getting into a daily habit of it. Before you know it, it will seem strange not to have them and you might even want more.
Plan ahead. When I know something is important to me, I like to choose 1 -3 actions I want to do in connection with that change the night before and write them in a journal or a calendar I refer to daily. If I usually skip breakfast, I’ll jot down the night before “eat breakfast” and decide what I am going to have. If I want to start a routine of an earlier bedtime I’ll write down, “be in bed by 10pm with all electronics off.”
It might sound like a silly thing but writing down the habits we want to create and seeing them regularly on the page, gets the wheels turning as to what must change to make our goal a reality. At the very least, writing our newly proposed habits down gets us thinking about whether that change is really on our priority list. If for example I write down that I want to eat breakfast every day for seven days, but I don’t do it, I’m probably going to start re-thinking things. If that happens, here are a few questions you could ask yourself: What do I need to do differently to make this happen? Is this change as important to me as I think it is? What needs to change – the goal or the approach?
Give these practices a try when integrating your next healthy habit change and see what happens!