Creating Healthy Habits That Stick

I don't know about you, but I'm glad 2016 is gone.  For me, a new year symbolizes a chance to start fresh and start a new chapter.  The process of shedding old thoughts, feelings and less than optimal habits and replacing them with inspired new ideas and goals is very therapeutic.   

Creating lasting change is not easy.  I know this all too well.  “Tomorrow mentality” is an easy trap to fall into.  My diet starts tomorrow. I’ll start running on Monday. I’ll spend more time with my family as soon as this project is finished at work.  The truth is, the more we avoid looking at the things we need to change, the harder it is to start.    The decision to start NOW is the foundation of habit formation or elimination.   Whether I’m mindfully chewing my food 20 times before swallowing, drinking lemon water first thing in the morning or tracking daily spending, in order for us to live our lives according to our highest values and priorities we must instill daily practices.

Why are habits so important to a happy life?  A foundation of healthy habits allows us to create a happy life where we feel in control of our destiny, have more clarity and ultimately have more TIME and ENERGY to do the things we love.  When establishing healthy habits, we should have realistic expectations about the challenging and fragile process ahead and willpower required to create momentum. Quantum leaps don’t happen very often.  It’s our consistent daily choices to engage in activities that fuel our bodies with nutrition, movement, relaxation and stress management that pave the road to change.

If you are on a mission to hit the ground running in 2017, here are 10 powerful ways to help create and stick to healthy habits:

1)   Commit.  You have to be 100% all in. DECIDE. Make a list of why you want to instill a particular positive habit or eliminate a bad one.  If you stumble, get back up.  Don’t fall victim to the “QUIT” mentality. It is human nature to try to find loopholes when our willpower is tested.  Loopholes come in many forms but essentially gives us the go ahead to indulge in the moment and almost adopt a “this doesn’t count” attitude.  In these situations, it’s beneficial to have a plan for that moment and be mindful of when you’re doing it.  If you overcome it, wonderful. If you don’t,  move on and start fresh. Don’t let a momentary lapse set you back any further than it needs to.

2)   Protect.  Be sure to protect your habit. Don’t set yourself up to fail by putting yourself around people or situations that will tempt you to get off track. 

3)   The Why.   Figure out what motivates you.  Are you motivated by internal gratification and desire for personal growth? Or are you motivated by being accountable to others?  If you’re a very responsible person, you may not want to disappoint or admit that you didn’t get something done.   There’s nothing like having to be accountable to others to up your game.    Do you like to buy things to support your habits? Or do you get satisfaction by being a minimalist such as using the last drop of shampoo before buying another?  Getting clear about your reasons is a crucial step to creating lasting change.

4)   Self Care.  Start with Foundation Habits: Nutrition, Restful Sleep, Exercise & Declutter. Most of us have a variety of things we are interested in achieving and constantly strive for.  Without a solid foundation in place we won’t have the energy or willpower reserve to achieve these goals. Willpower is finite and dwindles as the day goes on, be sure to protect your reserves by investing in your daily energy tank with proper diet, exercise and consistent sleep schedules. 

5)   Get Inspired.  Make it fun and creative.  Create a challenge or game.   Find as many support groups or outlets as possible.  Read, watch videos. Join groups of people focused on the same things as you are.  Choose workouts you enjoy doing.  If you enjoy what you're doing, chances are you'll keep doing it.

6)   Prioritize.  Chunking daily tasks and priorities into blocks of time is a very effective tool to monitor our progress and keep us focused on things that are important to us.  Otherwise, it is way too easy for low priority activities to crowd out our day.  Staying accountable is especially fragile in the early stages of habit formation, so being constantly reminded of our goals is essential. 

7)   Convenience.  Make the things you want to do easy and things you want to stop doing inconvenient.  Examples are setting out your workout gear at night for next morning or not having sweets in the house.

8)   Be Prepared.  Have a back up plan and alternatives ready.  If … happens then ….  We are all going to have cravings or want to get off track from time to time.  I carry essential oils in my purse for emergencies. You never know when need aromatherapy or a calming & mood lifting spritzer on the fly. I also remind myself that cravings usually pass after about 15 minutes, as I try to focus on something else (preferable something pleasing).  Aromatherapy is a great way to instantly reset the brain and instantly boost resistance to succumbing to the power of my cravings.  When I get through that moment I feel confident and empowered.

9)  Set Goals Not Finishing Lines.  When we have a big event or finishing line that we are striving for, once that goal has been met it’s way to easy to fall out of our daily habits if we don’t have another goal we are striving for.  An example is when a bride is working her butt off to be the perfect vision for her wedding day.. then after that day, the weight comes on, skin care goes out the window.  It’s exhaustion! Strive for continuous improvement, not perfection.

10)    Treats vs. Rewards.  A treat is self-care. A reward is bribery.  There is a danger in rewarding yourself for progress or holding to your word. You make it conditional rather than making the benefits of the habit itself to be the reward.

Creating change is hard, but with a strong desire, a commitment and a bit of planning you’ll find it’s easier than you think.   One baby step is all we need.