How to create healthy habits
DEFINE WHAT YOU WANT
The first step in acquiring healthy habits is to discover which habits you want to keep. To do this, you need to be clear about your goals.
According to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, goal setting is a behavior change technique that serves as a key component of successful interventions.
Invest time in exploring and discovering what you want and need at this point in your life. Being aware of this will allow you to take the next step: formulate a specific plan.
MAKE A PLAN
Once you have clear objectives, you have to define a plan with realistic actions. Focus on small steps you can take and repeat them to achieve your goals.
A study published in the British Journal of General Practice suggests that an effective behaviour change strategy is an approach based on small changes.
Here are some examples of specific steps you can add to your routine and make them become habits:
- Invest time in the morning to meditate – starting the day off in a hurry will put you in a bad mood and make your routine worse. If you set aside some time in the morning to reflect, show gratitude or meditate you will have more energy to face the new day.
- Eat a healthy breakfast – not everyone has the same appetite in the morning, so you can base your breakfasts on your body’s needs. Generally, a breakfast rich in protein and healthy fats will fill you with energy.
- Drink a glass of water before you leave home.
- Get some exercise during your lunch break.
- Afternoon snack – this is the time of day when your energy starts to drop, so having a healthy snack on hand is always a good idea.
- Prepare your dinner – cooking at home will help you reduce your calorie intake and control what you eat.
- Plan a time to exercise – if you exercise at the same time every day, it will be an automatic action.
- Read before you go to bed – this will help your body relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night – follow a routine: go to bed and get up at the same time, at least on weekdays
- Make a plan to combat stress. When things don’t go according to plan, you may be tempted to throw in the towel and give up your new habits.
According to some studies, the mere repetition of a simple action makes it habitual, because it is automatically activated after contextual cues.
In other words, when you repeat certain behavior after certain situations, over time the brain accepts these actions as automatic.
For example, if you train before breakfast, the automaticity of this behavior will increase over time. So, if you get into the habit of doing this activity every day before breakfast, your brain will automatically prepare for training, rather than having to make a conscious decision.
A good way to start is by choosing some habits that you would like to include in your morning routine, such as meditating, drinking a glass of water when you get up, or spending some time without a cell phone to start the day.
According to some studies, it takes two months for an action to become automatic, so consistency is the key! When you’ve repeated a behavior for two months, it will become second nature.
OVERCOME THE SETBACKS
Setbacks can occur at any time when you’re trying to achieve a goal. There will be days when you don’t follow your plan perfectly, when you skip a workout, when you get carried away or when you don’t get enough sleep.
According to a group of researchers in London, occasionally skipping the routine of a behavior does not seriously affect the process of habit formation. (4) The automaticity of a habit recovers as soon as the action is performed again.
Obviously, the longer you are not doing the actions, the more difficult it is to regain “habit” status. So, while it’s sometimes okay to skip the routine, try to get back on track as quickly as possible so you don’t break the habit.
TAKE A BREATH
If you take it too seriously, it’ll be harder for you to keep up the habit. We want to work hard to be healthy, but there also has to be times when we take a break. Set aside time each week for relaxation and reflection. Don’t forget about positivity and gratitude and rewarding your body for all it allows you to do.
In this time of pause, you can take a relaxing walk, participate in a yoga class, get a massage or read a book on the couch. Use this time to regain your body and mind for another week of wellness.