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We’ve all been there. Anyone who has ever tried to implement a new habit knows it can be challenging.
The space between knowing better and doing better can be tortuous. Luckily, there’s a cure. The challenge of this in-between period is alleviated by taking action. The great thing is this action doesn’t have to be huge lifestyle changes; you can start small and create monumental shifts. If you want to make adjustments in order to live a healthier life, first and foremost, I’d like to congratulate you. It is courageous to want and to voice a desire to improve. You’ve already accomplished something great. Second, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are five steps that will help you build new healthy habits (or as I call it, the helpful five):
1. Get clear and specific.
Get clear on what habits you want to practice. Don’t make the intention “I want to be healthier;” make your intention something that will give you direction. Take time to determine what specifically will make you feel healthier and what you’d like to change. For example, start with something like “I want to drink 10 glasses of water a day,” or “I want to eat green vegetables two times a day,” or “I want to eat home-cooked meals for dinner six times a week.” If you want to drink less alcohol, don’t only make your intention that you’d like to drink less. Be specific. Make your goal “I want to have two alcoholic drinks a week.” The more specific and clear you are on what you want to do, the easier it will be to make a plan and stick to it.
Once you have a clear and specific intention, start and end your day looking at it. This will keep the intention on your mind throughout the day and will increase the likelihood that your actions will align with it. Write it in your journal, write it on a post-it and hang it on your mirror, set a reminder for it to pop up on your phone, make a vision board of it and save it as a background on your phone. Until you’re consistently practicing the new habit, have your goal somewhere you will see it every day.
2. Know your why.
Take time to reflect and dig deep. Figure out why it is that you want to make these lifestyle adjustments. Get to the root of why you want to change things. What about your current habits that are not serving you? Journal about how you you’d like to feel. What will these new habits help you do? For example, if you want to organize your house, determine why. Perhaps it’s so you have a streamlined routine and it’s easier to leave in the morning. Having a strong why that resonates with you will help keep you on track. Taking time to determine your why will help you figure out if you’re making adjustments for the right reasons. Is more going on for you than wanting to make some adjustments in your life? Get curious.
3. Make a plan.
You may have heard the quote, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” by Benjamin Franklin. It’s true. Success in achieving your goals starts with planning. A productive day starts with planning the night before. Eating healthy dinners is a lot easier when you plan what you’re going to eat for the week instead of attempting to make healthy decisions when you finish work, you’re tired, hungry, and takeout sounds delicious. It’s times like these that you will fall back on habits you’ve chosen in the past, the same habits you’re now working to swap for ones that make you feel better.
Once you’re clear on your goals make a plan for how you will go about achieving those goals. Get specific, write it down, put it in your calendar. Have the how decided so when you’re in the moment, all you have to do is follow the prescribed steps you’ve set for yourself. Do the thinking, planning, and organising beforehand so in the moment you don’t have to both stick to your goals and determine how you’re going to stick to your goals.
4. Take actions to keep you on course.
Write your why out on a piece of paper and place it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Have a friend or hire a coach that will check in on you and help hold you accountable. If the plan you’ve made doesn’t seem to be working, hire a coach to help you make a plan that will work. Create a solid support system for yourself. Have people in your corner to hold you accountable.
Make your undesirable habits harder to access. This can look like not buying food that doesn’t make you feel your best, unplugging your Xbox, keeping your phone out of the room when you’re working, placing your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you get up in the morning. Make your desirable habits easier to implement. This can look like moving your exercise equipment upstairs from the basement, placing the apples in the middle of the counter, setting a reminder on your phone to meditate. The easier and more streamline you can make your desirable habits, the more likely you are to do them.
There are so many ways you can get creative and make building healthy habits a pleasant experience. After doing your habits for a week, treat yourself with something fun. Extra points if that fun thing doesn’t go against the habit you’re trying to create!
5. Pay attention to how you’re speaking to yourself.
You become what you identify as. If you identify as someone who works out every day, you’ll workout every day. It you identify as someone who doesn’t sleep well, you won’t sleep well. Pay attention to the narratives you’re feeding yourself because those narratives become your reality. Foster a positive inner voice, not one that beats you down. If you fall off your new habits along the way, pay attention to what that inner voice tells you as a result. If it’s mean, you want to change it to one of love and acceptance. Instead of harping over the times you didn’t stick to your habits or plan, determine what you can learn from them and leave them in the past.
Always remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect. It’s okay to fall off your goals. Gently remind yourself of your why and tweak things so it’s less likely that you’ll fall off next time. Extend yourself grace when doing hard things. You’re an ever-evolving masterpiece, and they take time.