Exchange your unhealthy habits for more healthy ones this year. While it’s important to challenge yourself to develop new healthy habits, just deciding what you want to change, is not enough. The good news is that habits are changeable. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Here are some things to consider as you contemplate new health goals:
- Know you’re why to change. Be careful to think of the real reason you want to make a change. Sometimes people fail to nail down their why for a change. Think about this: why is this habit change important to you? While you may have a more abstract long-term why, it’s helpful to develop a concrete short-term why so you can see the impact of the change. The why is your motivation for changing your health habits.
- Envision that you are already there. What will your life be like or how might it change with implementing this new health habit? Using meditation, journaling, or guided imagery can help you envision what the habit change can do for you.
- Determine how committed you are to change. Rate yourself on how excited you are to make a change on a scale of 0-10. Then rate yourself on how big that change will impact your life. Finally, rate how strong your commitment to that change is. If you lack excitement or motivation for change, it can put a damper on your commitment.
- Eliminate a negative habit that will compete with the new habit. What negative habit needs to be eliminated for the new habit to be incorporated?
- Make small, incremental changes. The Fogg Behavioral Model shows that 3 elements must converge at the same moment for any behavior to occur. Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt. If a behavior does not occur, something is missing. Consider any past failure to achieve a behavior change to develop a new habit. If there is not enough motivation, or if it is way beyond your capabilities, this can be an obstacle to change. Making changes simple, taking small incremental steps can help you integrate new habits. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Take small steps and make it easy to win! Develop mini-habits to get to the desired end goal. An example of this is that you don’t start to exercise by saying you will go to the gym an hour every day for 5 days each week. Start smaller, making the mini-habits seem too small to fail.
- Say it out loud. Tell others who support you about the new healthy habit you are adopting. This can help solidify your commitment to a change.
- Consider asking for help. Ask family, friends, or coworkers whom you trust to support you in making a healthy habit change whether it is to eat out at a healthier place, support you in not staying awake until the midnight hours, or helping you find the time you need in your day to exercise.
- Consider roadblocks to change before you make the change. It may be family, for example, who may not support you in making a dietary, exercise, stress management, or sleep change. Consider how you will address the change with your family. Announcing your intent or making a request may not be enough if others are not supportive. Sometimes, misery loves company and so, for example, you routinely binge on poor snack choices while watching tv with family members, they may object if you suggest bringing some healthy ones. Determine how you will eliminate any roadblocks, whether it is avoiding interacting with non-supportive people during that activity, talking to them, or however you can best move forward to address a barrier to implementing your new health habit.
- Use willpower wisely to create a new habit. Willpower often depletes throughout the day. Using it wisely and proactively, can help you to install a new habit. Eating, moving, and sleeping well actually support your willpower. Embrace the fundamentals diet, rest, exercise, stress management, and dietary supplementation. If you are addressing any new habits in these areas, meditation and breathing exercises can help increase motivation. Use your willpower wisely to create a new habit that eventually will run on autopilot.
- Be specific. Pre-commit to a behavior and make sure you are very specific around the new habit, and create specific parameters about what you will and won’t do. Be specific through developing SMART goals. Describe the new habit or mini-habit specifically, make it measurable, actionable, realistic and time-based.
- Determine a cue or trigger for the new habit. Create a cue or trigger for the new habit. An example is that you put on your exercise clothes as a trigger to do your new exercise program. Use tools such as checklists or calendars to help you be accountable to your commitment.
- Embrace the process and accept that pain is part of the process. Know that the process will be hard. Plan and prepare how you will deal with the obstacles that will pop up.
- Take action and do the new health habit repeatedly. A key to integrating a new habit, is do it regularly and repeatedly.
- Use self-compassion to avoid shaming behaviors when you fail. Get back to the habit and let go of the past. Embrace the fact that there will be bumps in the road and it is not about perfection.
- Find your grit. Know you can do it and use your intense passion and persistence to accomplish the healthy habit change. Whatever you believe, you can achieve.
It’s often tough to go it alone when deciding to make a health change. Hiring a health coach can be a wise investment to help you achieve the outcomes you are looking to achieve. A health coach supports you to make changes to your health behaviors and habits. A coach can ask the right questions to help you decide which priority health habit change you want to address first. They can challenge you to consider how you are approaching a new habit. They can encourage you to brainstorm any potential obstacles and think through how to navigate obstacles that may get in your way of success. They will help you determine if the habit you want to change is aligned with other life goals and will support you in getting back on your path of change when you make a detour inconsistent with your goals.
So, as you contemplate this year’s goals and the habits you want to change, consider that excellence is not an act, it is a habit. Like Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Johnson, Brian. https://www.optimize.me/101/habits. 2021: Optimize Enterprises, Public Benefit Corporation.
I am a Master’s prepared RN, National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Board-Certified Functional Wellness Coach, and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. I help people fix their chronic inflammation & pain with in-home lab testing, client assessments, personalized natural healing protocols, and online coaching to help them move from pain to peace so that they feel better, move better, and live better.