What Do You Want To Change?

People reach out to me because there is a little something they would like to change about themselves. It might be their diet, lifestyle or outlook. They may want to lose weight but are held back by doubt, fear, confusion or low motivation. Their willpower has run out, they haven’t had a health scare (or not yet) and it’s too hard to keep trying to change. Yet deep down inside they know something is missing?

It could be you’ve developed bad habits: poor diet, toxic people, laziness, etc. Many behaviors, good and bad, become automatic or habituated over time. For example, reaching for junk food is a behavior that can become an unhealthy reflex over time. So, if changing a habit or two is something you want to tackle this new year, here are 7 tips to help you create healthy habits that stick:

  1. Watch your language. Instead of saying all junk food is bad don’t buy any and replace it with healthier options.
  2. What might stop you? Anticipate problems. If you have made a plan to walk after work and it’s raining, have a plan B which might be going to an inside yoga class.
  3. Start with small and easy. You want to set yourself up for success, not failure. Setting up small tasks that you can actually accomplish will help to reinforce behaviors that support the goal as well as provide you with a sense of control. For example, if you’re trying to get into shape, and are embarking on an exercise program, introduce walking briskly for 10 minutes a day for the first week and then increase it from there.
  4. Use triggers to your advantage. Triggers typically are thought of as being related to a negative or unhealthy habit like someone who smokes only when they drink alcohol, or someone who eats chips while sitting in front of the TV. Just as a stimulus can trigger a bad behavior, it can lead to a positive behavior. Set up a new, healthy behavior while watching TV – maybe it’s eating carrots, or stretching. This new, healthier behavior will soon become habit.
  5. Understand your motivation. What’s your motivation? Are you moving towards something positive or away from something negative? The former is far more powerful and lasting.
  6. Make it convenient. Things that are easy are more likely to become routine. Brushing teeth, shaving, and grocery shopping for most are habit. By organizing our lives, we’re able to accomplish these mundane tasks without much resistance or problem. Imagine if you had to travel an hour to grocery shop? It would be harder to accomplish and stick with. That said, if you want to join a gym, make it close to home or work and get prepared by having the proper clothing and equipment. If you want to eat healthy, then prepare a few meals in advance.
  7. Start early. Most people have more energy earlier in their days after a night of sleep and are less likely to have excuses that could arise later in the day. Take advantage of this by scheduling new tasks in the morning. I recommend to many of my clients to allow 30-60 minutes in the morning for self-care such as exercise, stretching, or reading. These have essentially become habit for them.

Lisa Burbage

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