We Are What We Do: Creating Healthy Habits Step-By-Step
As the saying goes, change is hard. But honestly, change is the easy part. Lasting change is what seems almost impossible.
When we think about the habits that make up our daily lives, we’ve all got some that we’d like to change. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or it could be work related, or spiritual, or… There are so many areas in our lives that could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.
Let’s break it down into a three step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new behavior and made it a true habit – something we do automatically without having to think about, like brushing our teeth.
Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more. Thinking about the concept of SMART goals, a better option is to say something like “I will go for a 30-minute walk 5 days a week”. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.
Remind Yourself To Get It Done
The next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t really want to go out and walk. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder. Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while. And as you'd guess, there's an app for that too. Making an accountability partner can also help as the sense of community and support will encourage you when other factors don’t.
Set yourself up for success
Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Make that daily walk part of your after dinner routine, or change from grabbing a snack at the vending machine at work at 10:00 in the morning to prepping a week of healthy snacks. Plan ahead for potential challenges like bad weather by having an alternate plan like a walking video.
Ultimately, we are what we most consistently do, so strive for progress and not perfection.