November 23, 2020
We all have behavioural habits— actions that we repeat regularly without much conscious thought. Whether it’s waking up early, grabbing a mid-afternoon snack or watching two hours of Netflix every day, most of us will find that it’s hard to break our routines. However, practicing good habits is a major part of improving our physical and mental health. Achieving a healthy, sustainable lifestyle is built around making good choices and sticking to them. And guess what? It’s completely within your reach! Keep reading for a list of tips that can help you make healthier choices like its second nature!
Healthy habits can be defined as actions that we take, often without thinking about them, that improve our health. This includes eating properly, engaging in regular physical activity, and even thinking positively. Of course, this is easier said than done. We know how to achieve our health goals, and yet, it’s difficult for many of us to stick with our plans.
As the popular saying goes… old habits die hard. Which is why the first step to building healthy habits is knowing why you’re deciding to make a change for yourself. Without a good reason, you’ll likely find that it’s extremely hard to break away from your usual routine. If you’re trying to become more physically active because you think it’s what you “should” be doing, it won’t work in the long run. Think about your healthy habits as a part of an important cause that you care about; something that’s worth the time, effort, and struggle. You’re not just going to the gym to lose a couple of pounds, you’re also becoming stronger, more confident, and setting an example for others. Once you’ve done some soul searching for your perfect “why,” remember it, repeat it to yourself, and write it down if you have to.
Big behavioural changes require a very high level of motivation that is difficult for many of us to sustain. If you’re looking to change your lifestyle, it’s much easier to start with tiny habits in the beginning. For example, adding a few extra veggies into one meal every day can be the start of a major diet change.
The best way to form a healthy habit is to tie it to an existing routine. This can be done by observing your environment and how you spend your time. For example, if you have a cup of coffee every morning, try doing a quick exercise routine while your drink is brewing. Give yourself little reminders throughout the day, such as going to sleep with your gym equipment and clothes already packed for the next day. Place your bag by the door so that all you need to do is grab your things and go!
Repetition can turn a new behaviour into habit. According to Dr. Amitai Shenhav, Assistant Professor in Brown University’s Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences:
“Psychologists have been trying to understand what drives our habits for over a century, and one of the recurring questions is how much habits are a product of what we want versus what we do. Our model helps to answer that by suggesting that habits themselves are a product of our previous actions, but in certain situations those habits can be supplanted by our desire to get the best outcome.”
Exercising frequently and eating healthy can become second nature— simply by repeating them enough times. By staying committed to your goals, every passing day will become a little easier.
As you’re working to replace your bad habits, it’s a good idea to reward yourself when you’re on the right track. But that doesn’t mean that you should give in to those unhealthy cravings! If the goal is to consume less sugar, and you’re now craving a dessert after a long week of clean eating, think of a healthier substitute as a reward. Try replacing that tub of ice cream with a scoop of frozen yogurt or a delicious fruit smoothie.
Although many of our day-to-day actions are habitual, it doesn’t mean that we can’t break the routine and incorporate more good habits into our lives. Ensuring that our healthy habits don’t die within a few weeks or months requires making our physical and mental wellbeing a priority.
With the right motivation, some determination, and the right tips, you’ll be amazed to see how quickly your life can turn around.
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