New habits don’t just happen by accident. Don’t you wish they did? I certainly do. But realistically, actions have to be repeated over and over and over and over and over (you get my point) and over again until they become habits. True for all of life. And true in Fitness and Healthy Eating! So here are a few tips that have worked for me over the years. Maybe you can glean one or two for yourself:
The first step in creating a healthy new exercise habit that will last in your lifestyle is to choose an activity that fits well with who you are and how you live. If you don’t, you may find that you’re working against personality and lifestyle factors that are too ingrained to change, and your new healthy habit never quite takes root. Don’t ask me to make a habit to go to sleep at 2 am; I don’t want to, it’s not appealing to me, and I won’t put the effort into it. No thank you! When choosing a new practice, keep in mind factors like your strengths, your schedule and lifestyle, and the complexity of the new habit, as well as your current stress level and time available, and find an activity that fits well with all of these variables.
BUILD YOUR NEW HABIT INTO YOUR SCHEDULE!
If you don’t have a specific plan for sticking with a new habit, it’s all too easy to find that your already-packed schedule won’t allow you the ‘spare time’ necessary to do anything new very often. It’s just not realistic. You’ll be too busy, too tired, or will easily find another excuse to let inertia snuff out your best intentions. That’s why a crucial next step is for you to find a specific time in your schedule that’s allotted just for your new activity. Whether it’s ‘every morning before my shower’, ‘during my lunch break’, or ‘weeknights at 8’, you need to have a time that you know is set aside for your chosen activity so that you won’t need to continually find a reason to do it–or not do it. Be real!
You’ll find much more success if you have others who are helping you along the way. They’ll give you support when you need it, but you’ll also have to answer to them if you feel like skipping your new habit; this makes your excuses a lot less valid somehow… You can hire a personal coach, or simply get support by having a buddy start with you, or join a group of people who have the same goals you do. If you’d rather do it alone, you can always ask a friend to keep you accountable for the first few weeks. Sometimes, even a simple journal might be enough accountability for you:knowing that you will have to write down what you did not do or what you ate might do the trick.
USE GOALS AND REWARDS!
Although the great feelings you get accomplishing something and setting up a new habit can be their own reward, it helps to also have some more tangible rewards. Even pets can be trained to do just about anything with a few small treats! None of us is above the power of a few good rewards. The trick is to reward yourself for your first few steps until your new healthy habit becomes ingrained into your way of life. The first month or so is especially important, as that’s the approximate time it takes for a new behavior to become a habit (about 21 days). The rewards you give yourself are a personal choice, and you probably know what would be the best incentive for your own success, but something small and enjoyable is great, like a new piece of workout clothing for going to the gym, or a brand new pedometer to reward regular walking, cool new music to use with a new workout, or beautiful new pens—why not? If you can afford a visit to the jeweler, go for it!
CHECK WITH YOURSELF TO BE SURE YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!
As you go, pay special attention to how you feel and ask yourself some questions: Does your new practice seem to fit with your lifestyle? Is it easy to maintain your new habit, or do you think you may need to try something new? If you find that you haven’t kept up with your new plans as you’ve hoped, rather than beating yourself up over it, congratulate yourself for noticing that you need a change of plans—it’s the first step in building a new plan that will better serve you! And, if you’re trudging along with it, but have decided that you really may need to try something else instead, at least you know what doesn’t work for you as well, and now you can try something else that you may end up loving. All in all, it’s best to learn several new things anyway so you can have a few options available in the future.
So, here’s the million dollar question: What new habit are you going to establish?