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How to Create Healthy Habits (NOT Restrictions)
A habit is a routine or practice performed regularly; usually an automatic response to a specific situation. We all have habits – some good, some not so good. But what if you want to create new habits?
You may have read that it takes 28 days to cultivate a new habit but this really is the minimum. In reality, this ranges from 18 to 254 days, with 66 days being the average.
So where do you start?
Here are ten tips to create healthy habits
1. Explore your readiness for change
You need to have enough desire to change and be confident in your ability to do it before you start. If something feels forced, you’re unlikely to see it through.
Not Ready? Give yourself some more time to weigh up the pros and cons.
Not Sure? Think about what would it take to make you more ready.
2. Know your why, and OWN it
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘remember why you started’. Keeping your objectives in mind can help keep you motivated.
What will you gain? What might you lose if you don’t make changes?
Write down your goals and why they are important to you, and put them somewhere you’ll see them every day, like on the door of your fridge.
3. Set realistic goals
- SPECIFIC – address the what, why and how you will achieve your goal
- MEASURABLE – make your goals quantifiable, put a number on it (how much, how many?)
- ATTAINABLE – make sure your goals are under your full control, with no external influences or dependencies that might get in your way
- REALISTIC – can you easily commit to this goal?
- TIME-BOUND – define your deadline
Here’s an example: ‘I will drink one 8oz glass of water first thing every morning after I get up”.
4. Have patience
Your health isn’t a race, it’s a marathon that requires daily attention.
There will probably be setbacks along the way, but if you see these for what they are – part of the learning curve – and cut yourself some slack, you will gain confidence and make progress.
5. Aim for consistency, not perfection
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of making lots of adjustments to your life, go slowly and pick off one change at a time. Once you’ve nailed that successfully, incorporate the next.
Start with small, easy changes that together, will add up to a healthier lifestyle. This is a far more sustainable approach.
Remember, you don’t need to have an all-or-nothing attitude in order to succeed.
6. Try habit stacking
A good way to incorporate new healthy habits into your life is to tie them up with your existing habits. Think about the patterns in your day and where you might be able to stack habits.
For instance, if you make yourself a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, and one of your goals is to increase your water intake, you could pour yourself a glass of H2O and drink it while the kettle boils for your coffee. If you need a visual cue to remind you, try arranging your kitchen cupboards so your water glasses live next to your coffee cups.
If you’re trying to remove a bad habit, try replacing it with a new healthy habit to fill any void.
The more frequently you do something, the quicker it will become part of your routine.
7. Reward yourself
Rewards can help reinforce good habits and give you incentives to keep moving towards your goals.
A reward could be something simple like listening to an audiobook or podcast while you work out, having a nice relaxing bath after your work out, or something tangible like buying a new item of clothes.
8. Team up with an accountabilibuddy
Consider joining forces with a trusted friend, family member or colleague who has similar goals to you, so you can hold each other accountable.
We have a much harder time reconciling the idea of letting someone else down but we often let ourselves off the hook too easily.
Having someone else to share your journey with and keep you on track can help you both stay focused and motivated.
9. Be flexible
If the plan isn’t working, change the plan, not the goal.
Don’t lose sight of what you want.
10. Repeat after me:
I am in control.
I have options.
You know best what will work for you (and what won’t), but hopefully these tips here will give you some ideas of where to start in creating your new healthy habits.
How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world