Every single day is a new opportunity to make a fresh start and work toward a healthier habit.
Ninety-five percent of life runs on autopilot. With any habit, you create a new neural pathway in your brain and your subconscious mind then handles it automatically. Any new activity you want to incorporate must become a habit. It’s about creating a sustainable change you’re more likely to stick with over time. In this article, I will share my 13 best tips with you, which can be used for any habit you want to incorporate.
Here are 13 Tips for Creating and Sticking to A New Healthy Habit:
Make it Specific and Reasonable.
Eating healthy or losing weight are not specific goals. They’re too generic and vague. What does “eating healthy” mean to you? While losing 30 pounds in two weeks (which is what someone actually asked if I could help with!) is certainly specific, it is not reasonable.
I know we’re always encouraged to think big, and that’s great, but in this particular instance thinking small is the way to go. I call it taking baby steps. The most effective way to make a habit is by breaking it down into smaller steps. For example, eating healthy food vs. a healthy eating habit: Start substituting a piece of fruit for that one daily morning pastry; replace one cup of coffee or can of soda with 16 oz. of water. By breaking it down to the smallest habit change, your chances of succeeding are 50% higher than if you keep it vague. Taking baby steps tricks your brain. Your subconscious likes to be in control and it doesn’t like change. Big changes set-up subconscious resistance, but you can sneak in small changes.
Think about Your “Why.”
You know what the habit is that you want to incorporate. Now ask yourself why you want to make it part of your life. It has to be compelling to you. If you try to create a healthy habit because your spouse, parent, or child wants you to, you most likely will fail.
Put it in Writing.
Writing it down makes you more likely to succeed with your new habit. Studies show that women who kept a food and fitness log lost almost twice as much weight as those who did not. Writing it down reinforces it in your mind.
Be Prepared and Make it Easy.
Make sure you have everything you need to ensure your success. If you want to replace junky snacks with fresh veggies, have them washed, sliced, and within view in the refrigerator. If you want to go to the gym after work, have your sneakers and workout clothes in the car. If you make it complicated or hard you just won’t continue.
Use Triggers to Your Advantage.
A trigger is something that leads you to automatically do something else. If your reward for working out at the gym is stopping for a calorie-laden latte, bring your own bulletproof coffee in a thermos instead. Visual triggers work well, too. Laying your workout clothes on the bed in the morning will remind you to work out when you get home from work. Habits become automatic after you’ve created a bond between the trigger and the habit. The stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit will become.
Create a routine that includes your new habit so that it becomes automatic as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Do the same thing, in the same way, every time each day so that it becomes second nature. Habits are time and energy savers and brains like comfort and familiarity. Doing the same thing the same way makes it easy for your brain and begins creating a new neural pathway so that in time you will automatically choose the new way of doing things. If your goal is to eat healthier, don’t give yourself the option of not eating healthy, throw out the junk food that’s in your house. Spend one day on the weekend preparing healthy foods so they are ready to either cook or heat up.
A Harvard study had participants practice a one-handed piano exercise two hours a day for five days. It caused the brain area that controls the fingers to be enlarged. One group continued practicing for a month, another stopped, and a third only practiced mentally. Results showed, the earlier brain changes disappeared in the non-practicing group, but improved in both those who practiced and those who practiced mentally, to almost the same degree! So visualization could actually improve your odds. Imagine and envision yourself performing your habit, for example, eating a healthy dinner instead of pizza, and that area of your brain will grow stronger.
People work harder when they feel accountable to someone. Whether it’s a coach, mentor, friend, family member, or work buddy, reporting to someone else can provide that necessary push you need. Ultimately you are responsible for your behavior and you can be your own most powerful accountability partner.
Celebrate the Small Wins.
When you break things down into baby steps, pay attention to each success. If you want to eat a protein breakfast daily, start off by planning the first week’s meals. When you successfully have your healthy breakfast seven days in a row, celebrate! Reward yourself in a healthy way.
Don’t Get Impatient if the Results Don’t Come Quickly.
According to Dr. Caroline Leaf, it takes at least 21 days to rewire neural pathways and begin building a new thought. Then it takes two more 21-day cycles for a total of 63 days to truly establish a new thought or a new habit.
Practice Makes Permanent.
The more consistently you practice that new habit, the more permanent it will become.
We are inundated with technology so why not use it to our advantage? There are some apps that remind you to practice the new habit and help it stick. Several I’ve heard about are HabitBull, Habitica, Productive and the Way of Life app.
Do you have any tips you use in your own life to help you create and stick to a new habit that did not get mentioned above? Please share them with us in the comments section below. You just might help someone reading this!