It’s January, the month of grand plans and plotting goals, but unfortunately, more often than not we get carried away and bite off more than we can chew.
“I’m going to workout 6 days a week and completely cut carbs, even though I eat toast every morning and haven’t gone to the gym in 2 years”. Does this sound at all familiar? Most likely, and It never seems to stick.
So, how can we reach our goals and form realistic healthy habits? We looked into some of the most popular habit building theories and broke them down into 5 easy steps for you to digest.
Step one – Start small to prevent getting overwhelmed. Once you’ve nailed the first small improvement you can raise the bar and make it a little more challenging everyday. This also helps us stay motivated, regularly celebrating small achievements triggers the reward system in our brain and makes us feel good. If you love a good list then you know the buzz that comes with ticking off a simple task. This feeling of achievement is vital for forming long lasting habits and pushing yourself further.
Step two – Consider the obstacles that you may encounter. If you want to start going to the gym more often, try leaving your gym-kit out in plain sight. This will act as a cue and a reminder. If you want to stop checking your phone and hitting the snooze button first thing in the morning, try charging your phone on the other side of the room, this means you’ll have to get up to turn off your alarm and the hardest part is already over. Changing our environment to contain triggers or obstacles is a great way to aid a good habit and hinder a bad one. Try thinking about the habits you want to form, what obstacles you may face and what you can alter in your environment to serve as triggers or cues.
Step 3 – Reward yourself. When we start to associate certain actions with a positive outcome our brain is more likely to memorise this sequence of actions, storing it efficiently so we can eventually move on autopilot to get the desired positive outcome, AKA the reward. This is one of the most important aspects of forming new habits, for example, your reward for not hitting the snooze button could be the extra time you have in the morning to make a delicious breakfast. However, not all habits have instant rewards, for example, you won’t have a six-pack after your first workout but you will get some endorphins, if you need a little extra motivation, try associating extra rewards to habits that don’t deliver the desired end goal straight away. For example, you only allow yourself to watch an episode of your favourite show after you work out.
Step 4 – Repeat. You’re bound to mess up every once in a while, but never let yourself mess up twice in a row. You may have missed your workout today but tomorrow you MUST complete the session. You need to ensure consistency to make the habit stick. Just like the saying goes, you’ve got to get back on the horse, straight away.
Step 5 – Patience. You can’t expect to transform your behaviours overnight just as you can’t expect a supplement to transform your gut health in one day. It takes a while to adapt and learn, but it’s always worth the wait!
Fancy learning more about forming healthy habits? Here’s a list of our favourite books and podcasts that touch on the subject:
Automatic Habits, James Clear
The Power of Habit, Charles Dughigg
How to Kick Bad Habits (and Start good Ones), The Happiness Lab