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7 Tips for Starting Habits That Last (And Why Healthy Habits Are Essential)
You’re constantly being told to kick those bad habits, set resolutions to give up something, or just start new and leave the old behind. But not all habits are bad. In fact, starting some good habits might be the best thing you can do for yourself.
Somewhere along the line, the word habit got a bad rap, and it’s not deserved. Creating healthy habits can be the best way to keep your health goals on track with less effort. Once you get into a routine of eating well, taking supplements, exercising, and making sleep a priority, it becomes second nature. At that point, you’ve become a healthy version of you.
How to Start (and Keep) Good Habits
Have you heard that it takes 60 days to make a new habit? This is old wisdom, and it’s been around for a long time. Interestingly, it’s not true. Psychology Today says that habits can be easy to change if you understand the science behind the habit.
It all goes back to Pavlov and his dogs. Basically, Pavlov knew dogs salivate when they see food — it’s a reflex. He conditioned them to hear a metronome before seeing food. Eventually, they salivated when they heard the metronome, but there was no food in sight. That’s right; it’s all about conditioning.
Make your own healthy habits by using the conditioning basics and these tips.
If you’re an all-or-nothing person, you’re going to have a hard time with this step. One slip up, and you feel like you failed, and quitting is the only option. Just rewiring your brain to accept a mistake and to keep trying might be difficult, but maybe this is a good place to start.
Look for something to tie your new habit to. Something that you already automatically do. If you want to support your health by adding supplements to your day, then think about other things you already do every day. How about brushing your teeth? Keep your supplements next to your toothbrush and toothpaste, and take them as soon as you finish brushing.
Try Using an Alarm
Initially, it’s going to be hard to remember your new habit, and that’s okay. If you realize this might be a stumbling block, it’s easier to help yourself over it. An alarm might just be your key to remembering. If you tied your supplement to your tooth-brushing routine but forgot, set your alarm to go off right before you leave the house. That way, you’ll make sure you take your supplements.
There’s no reason to go crazy with rewards. Your bank account might not be able to handle it. But giving yourself a little positive reinforcement can make your habit easier to remember and can make it enjoyable.
If you took your supplements after brushing your teeth, look in the mirror, and smile at yourself. Or, if you’re not by a mirror, mentally congratulate yourself on your good, healthy choices. That’s all it takes, but it can make a big difference.
Don’t Go Overboard
If your goal is to be the healthiest you've been, you’ve probably got a laundry list of things you want to do differently. Being at your healthiest can mean many things. There’s no way you can revamp your entire life at once. Instead, start with baby steps. One thing at a time will help you find what works best for you.
In fact, breaking it down into little steps is key to being successful. How many times have you said, “I’d like to lose weight,” and then done basically nothing? It’s not about the big goal; it’s about the steps it takes to get there. If you want to lose weight, start by replacing a junk food snack with a healthy snack. Next, you add a walk to your routine after dinner, etc.
Shoot for Daily
Not all of the habits you want to create are ones you’ll do daily. Some habits you’ll do more frequently and some less frequently. But if you can work a habit into an already set schedule, it’s easier to remember it. Daily supplements, walks, healthy snacks, etc., make it easier to fold into your routine.
If your new habit is something you don’t need to do daily, is there a way to acknowledge it daily? For instance, you want to go to the gym three days a week and take kickboxing classes. But classes aren’t offered on the days of the week you’re not going to the gym. How about going for a walk at that time of day instead? Maybe you can work on a few kickboxing moves at home. How about doing squats, planks, or a sit-up challenge? Keeping that time of day as your fitness time will help you stay on track.
Make It Easy
Think ahead so you can make it easier to stick to your new habits. If you want to walk every night after dinner, but that’s also the time you help your children with homework, that’s not going to work. Schedule the walk at a time that will work.
Similarly, if you want to stick to a supplement plan, sign up for a subscription service. That way, you never discover an empty bottle that you forgot to run out and refill. Why go through all the hassle of getting new supplements when they can be delivered to your door before you’re even done with your last one. It’s so much easier to stick to your new, healthy habit when it’s delivered right to your door.
The Essential Element
Stop thinking of habits as bad things you need to kick and begin thinking about ways to embrace them. Habits could be your salvation to help you create that healthy lifestyle you always wanted. By embracing habits, understanding how they can be developed and nurtured, and using them to your advantage, you can live a healthy and happy life.
When you realize that the version of you you want to be is possible, it gets exciting. The problem is that it can be too exciting, and you want to dive in headfirst. The enthusiasm is great, but unfortunately, that’s not the way to create a successful habit. Instead of picturing who you can be in a week or a month, think about the new and improved you that will emerge after a year. A realistic approach and using the tips above will be your key to success.