By: Caroline Thomason
Humans are creatures of habit. This is how we have survived – we figure out that something works for us, and we continue to seek out whatever this ‘thing’ may be. For many, these habits may be small things such as showering in the morning or checking Facebook before bed.
However, when it comes to diet and exercise habits, many people find themselves flustered with their results. Especially during the New Year, people are resolving to create healthier habits. This blog is going to outline helpful tips to creating new habits and making them last.
With diet and exercise changes, it is easy to want to try to overhaul everything at once. I’m here to tell you to resist that urge. Focusing on just one habit at a time increases your likelihood of being successful. For example, getting up 20 minutes earlier to make a healthy breakfast or gradually getting in bed earlier to get enough hours are two of many examples that can make a huge difference when you are consistent with them one at a time! In a matter of weeks, you might start to notice that the one change you’ve made no longer seems to take as much of a mental effort to reinforce. Now you can begin to introduce a new habit! The key is to not overwhelm yourself and cause resistance to the habit you are working to create.
In addition to choosing only one habit, I also recommend creating more awareness for tasks that may drain your energy and thus cast you away from your new habit. Making changes requires mental effort, and when we are spending our mental energy on a lot of other activities, it may take away from the effort we could be putting into forming our new habit. For example, if your new habit is to prepare a salad each day, and you spend your time surfing YouTube or doing other mindless tasks, you might find yourself opting for a more convenient snack instead when it comes time to make the salad. Acknowledging draining activities might create more mental energy to put toward creating your salad.
Many researchers have studied the psychology of habits. In fact, there is a Habit Loop which has proved to be the primary way in which many of us form habits. It’s very simple, and has three steps: the trigger, the habit, and the reward. The trigger is the initial event before the habit occurs, and the reward is generally a sense of pleasure or fulfillment after the habit is performed. If you can find a way to break your habit at the trigger stage, you are more likely to succeed. For example, maybe the habit you want to change is grabbing a piece of candy or chocolate every time you walk through the grocery line. The trigger here is seeing the chocolate and wanting it. The habit is picking it up and buying it, and the reward is the satisfaction from eating it. In order to stop this habit loop at the trigger point, maybe you can offer yourself an incentive. You could make a deal that if you can leave the chocolate bar two weeks in a row, then the third week you can buy it if you want it. Oftentimes, breaking the habit may even lead to greater feelings of satisfaction that can outweigh the original habit’s satisfaction!
Use these tips and see how easily you can make changes to your health!