Everyone wants to develop healthy habits. That is why we see gyms, therapy centers, and running tracks, swamped with people in the beginning of every other year.
For some, these resolutions are just a start toward a healthier and happier life, but for most, the motivation plummets just after a few days.
This anticlimactic phenomenon of experiencing a sudden surge of motivation and then falling back to the old routine is not exclusive to New Year’s resolutions but rather plagues all good habits.
It takes somewhere between three weeks to eight months for a habit to form. Anything shorter, and you run the risk of falling back to your old, less-healthier self.
It sounds like a long time, and it is, but once you resist all the temptations of an unhealthy lifestyle for this long, healthier habits only become second nature.
Healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and good hygiene automatically enhance your mood, health, and overall quality of life.
Here are some ways you can steer clear of bad habits and develop healthy habits that stick!
1. Mentally Prepare Yourself
Every endeavor takes shape first in the form of an inspiring thought. Taking active steps toward developing a habit come after a mental plan has fully taken shape in the mind.
Any medical professional will tell you the importance of mental health and how it affects our lives, habits, and plans.
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Very few people possess the mental discipline to jump right into a task, let alone form a whole new habit.
2. Take It Slow
Let’s say you assessed your routine and made a list of all the negative patterns that you want to replace with positive and sustainable ones.
At that point, it can be tempting to do it all at once since your motivation is at its peak, and you can’t wait to see how these healthy habits will transform your life, but that is a flawed approach.
Not only is it flawed, but it is also non-sustainable because at the end of the day we can only change so much. Attempting to change a major part of your routine abruptly is bound to exhaust you pretty quickly.
Once you’ve listed down the negative patterns, pick one that you want to address first. It’s also a good idea to start with the one that is the easiest to change.
This way you’ll be able to focus with all your attention on that one habit and improve the chances of making it stick.
3. Slow And Steady Wins the Race
Once you have a goal in mind, naturally, you want to accelerate toward it. But the truth is that no good thing develops overnight.
It takes time, effort, and practice to form a habit. Incremental baby steps are the best way to go when it comes to achieving any goal.
Rather than focusing on deadlines or self-ultimatums, try to focus on growth. Mark your starting point and make sure that each day you do better than the last.
The incremental progress does not have to be astounding either. For example, if you exercised for five minutes yesterday, try to aim for six minutes today.
It may not sound like a big difference at the time, but in the end, all the baby steps add up.
4. Make It Easy for Yourself
According to the Flow State theory by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, people become more willing to start a task if it offers just the right amount of challenge.
What is the right amount of challenge? Something that isn’t too easy that it induces boredom but also something that isn’t too hard that it induces a starters anxiety.
When you plan to form a habit, make sure that it isn’t too hard to start, otherwise, you run the risk of avoiding it. In the beginning, take special efforts to make the transition easier on yourself.
Some ways to do that are listed below:
- If you plan to run first thing in the morning, take out your running clothes a night before
- Keep a graded water bottle at your desk if you plan to increase your water intake
- Keep healthier snacks at the front of the food cabinet
Starting is the hardest part. Once you get over the “prep” part of a habit, it’s usually easier to actually start it.
5. Be Consistent but Not Uncompromising
Once you’ve started, make sure that you keep at it. Consistency is the key to achieving anything in life, big or small.
Take a calendar and cross the day when you have finally kicked off a habit. Do this for every day you practice that habit. Soon you’ll start forming a chain. Your biggest challenge is not to break that chain.
The more you do something the quicker it becomes a part of your routine. Soon you’ll look forward to it and feel awkward if you skip it for any reason.
Having said that, don’t be overly harsh with yourself. Setbacks are an inevitable part of life – learn to take them gracefully and learn from them.
Don’t be disappointed if you skip a day or break your chain. As long as you make up for your setback and get back to your habit the next day, it’s all good.
6. Reward Yourself
Rewards induce us to stick to the healthy habit and does wonders for regulating self-discipline. When you look forward to a well-earned reward, you also look forward to completing the task at hand.
Rewards, mixed up with the personal satisfaction of completing a healthy task, impart a very positive effect on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
Also, don’t forget to treat yourself well from time to time. Apart from rewards, treats don’t have to be earned but they promote the concept of self-love, which is equally important.
Just Do It
All the suggestions given above are great to develop healthy habits that stick, but nothing will truly come to happen if you don’t take the initiative. Drink a glass of water, walk a few more steps, eat one healthy snack – start anywhere you want. Once you experience how good it feels to take care of yourself, you’ll be far more motivated to stick with it for life.