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Creating Healthy Habits

1. Habits take time to develop. It’s common to read that a new habit takes 30 days to become ingrained. It actually depends on the person and the habit! Studies have shown that it can take as long as 7 months to develop a habit. Be patient.

2. Willpower isn’t what it seems. You might admire the willpower of someone that works out every single day. But it doesn’t require any willpower to hit the gym if you have the habit of working out.

  • Willpower is great for developing new habits. However, it’s insufficient for consistently taking an action you don’t enjoy. Use your willpower for habit development.

  • Willpower is limited. If you find that you’re struggling too much, more willpower isn’t the answer. The solution is to reduce the demand on your willpower.

3. Focus on the habit of getting started. If you want to go for a walk each day, the first step might be to put on your walking shoes. Let that action be your focus. It’s not just a cliché. Getting started really is the hardest part. If you can put on your walking shoes and get out the door, you’re walking.

4. Have a trigger. Think about the habits you already have. You wash your hands after using the bathroom. You turn on the evening news after putting the kids to bed. A preceding action or event triggers most habits.

An effective trigger happens on a regular basis. Using the restroom, starting your car, going to bed, and eating a meal can all be effective triggers. Find something that happens every day and makes sense for the habit you’re seeking to develop.

5. Start small. If you want to write a novel, creating a habit of writing 1,000 words per day might be too much. Set a goal to write for at least five minutes after putting the kids to bed. Is five minutes too much? Then set a goal of writing a single word. Interestingly, if you write a single word, you’ll probably end up doing much more.

A very small goal might not seem to accomplish much, but you’re creating the habit of getting started with the activity. When you’re consistently taking that small step, you can begin increasing the demands you make upon yourself.

6. Reward yourself. It seems silly to reward yourself for writing one word, doing one pushup, or saying “hi” to a stranger. However, it’s a wonderful start. Reward yourself for even the smallest accomplishment! Tell yourself that you’re doing a great job or do a little dance. Whatever feels good to you is a viable option. Ensure that your reward is intelligent. Giving yourself a cookie for taking a long walk might be counter-productive!

7. Work on one new habit at a time. Starting a diet, sticking to a new exercise routine, learning French, and beginning a meditation practice is too much all at once. You’ll end up right where you started. Wait until you’ve shown some success with one habit before introducing another. Define success as performing the new habit at least 90% of the time that the trigger occurs.

We can help you address both diet and exercise because they go hand in hand. As long as you can commit to 5 minutes a day, you'll make progress.

A 90% success rate is excellent. The difference in results between 90% and 100% is quite minimal. Interestingly, a 70% success rate provides little in the way of results. Strive for at least 90%. Try following a diet 70% of the time and notice the results.

Anyone could look in your home and accurately determine your housekeeping habits. Once glance at your body reveals your eating and exercise habits. Your habits are evident for all to see. Create new habits and your life will change.

Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. In our next post, we'll talk about dealing with the inevitable discomfort that comes with any change.

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