As the years pass by and the next stage of life endlessly continues to sneak up on us, it is inevitable that our life circumstances, and our daily habits change along the way. Regarding healthy habits, this often means having less time for exercise, and being less intentional about what we put in our bodies. Instead, we prioritize other responsibilities, skipping out on the elliptical and swinging by Chick-fil-A before finishing up our workday so we can make it home in time for another episode of our favorite binge-worthy Netflix show (Queen’s Gambit anyone?). I am an advocate for all things in moderation, but when we make the decision enough times, it is no longer a decision, it is a habit.
Our brains are designed to be efficient, and they are constantly looking for ways to save energy. This is the very reason we have habits, to spend less mental energy on tasks or routines that do not typically change like brushing your teeth. This allows us the mental capacity to focus on other, more important things.
Habits are great to help our brains save energy. However, when we develop habits that are detrimental to our health and wellness, they will perpetuate our pain, fatigue, poor self-image, and lack of confidence. We will continue to do the things that make us feel this way, namely because of habits. This begs the question; how do we change a habit? The simple answer is, not easily. The reality is our brains are very good at what they do, and they take some time to re-wire themselves. However, with a basic understanding of how we develop habits it is very possible to change and create any habit. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when setting goals and trying to create a new habit:
1. Positive Mental Attitude – Any goal of changing a habit or behavior must be overflowing with optimism and positivity. If you are trying to make a change in your diet or exercise routine you feel is going to be very difficult or near impossible, I will save you some time and let you know right now, it is not going to work.
2. There must be a trigger –The Power of Habit simplifies the process as cue > habit > reward. To effectively train a habit, there needs to be some cue of set of circumstances that cue the behavior. This might be placing your gym bag in your car, or even bring it into work with you, so you are reminded immediately when leaving work that it is time to get to the gym.
3. There needs to be a reward – If we are staying with the idea of cue > habit > rewards, well then there needs to a reward. This can be any number of things, but one thing I always suggest is finding enjoyment in the journey not just the destination. For example, if your goal is weight loss, making your reward the endorphin rush and that feel good feeling after exercise, instead of the number on the scale at the end of the week, you will have a small reward each and every time you exercise. This will make it much more likely to great a positive habit, which in turn will make it much more likely for you to eventually reach your end goal.