It’s upon us…SCHOOL. It’s back and approaching eerily quickly. Or, if you’re not in school, the Fall season is approaching, and that means the holidays (and a thinner wallet). During this time, it’s very easy to get caught up in life’s happenings and put your own personal health off to the side; however, this may generate its own problems which may dip into other areas of your life. This week, I don’t have a super scientific article for you, but something that I feel is overlooked: habits.
Often, people see lack of motivation or willpower as the reason someone can’t stick to a diet plan or exercise program or some other thing that they said they would do ad ended up not doing. I believe that we, as humans, can’t rely on willpower all the time. We need to internalize actions and behaviors as habits if we truly want to do something long-term. Here’s an example: (hopefully), you’re brushing your teeth every day. Typically, this happens at the same time without question every single day because it’s just something that you do. It’s as natural to you as waking up! This is a habit. It’s a behavior so deeply embedded in you that you put no conscious thought or effort into brushing your teeth. So how do you make habits out of other things? Here are a few practical strategies which you can use to internalize behaviors and create habits out of them.
*Disclaimer* A lot of the information I’m going to share with you, I obtained from Sohee Lee, specifically her talk at the ISSN conference I attended in June. She’s a fantastic figure in the fitness world that strongly believes in habits for success (Soheefit.com).
Okay, here we go!
Optimize Your Surroundings
The first strategy is to change your immediate environment. We will use the example of wanting to lose weight, but think about how you could alter your surroundings to support a good habit. One simple thing you can do to increase chances of weight loss is to remove trigger foods in your home. Trigger foods are anything that may cause an episode of binging or something you have trouble controlling the intake of when you eat it.
Another example of changing the environment would be to put foods that you may overeat on in the back of the fridge, making it harder to access them and reducing the incentive to get them. I can remember the study that did this, but I remember seeing a study that tested this by placing soda in the back of the fridge and water in front of it. Before, it was the other way around with soda in the front. When they switched, workers were more likely to take a bottle of water over a soda. Crazy right?? Small things like that can have a great effect!
Create a statement that helps you stay on track with your desired habit in the form of “if…then”. For example: “If I get more sleep, then I will be more productive during the day”. Repeat this to yourself over and over so you clearly understand the benefit of the attempt to form this certain habit. It will be hard to make a behavior change, but an “if…then” statement helps you stay focused and reinforce the reason behind the behavior.
Write Down Your Why
This is similar to the intention statement, but this is more so a reflection on why you want this behavior to happen. Maybe you want to sleep more so you have more energy throughout the day to work, exercise, play with your children or spend time with your friends without being drowsy. These are all great reasons that should be written down and reflected on often until you don’t feel the need to because the behavior is now a habit!
There will be times that you mess up. It’s inevitable in any situation in life that’s worth pursuing. You set out to create a habit because it was important to you; so it’s also important to understand that while the process of creating this habit is going on, you may mess up and go against what the behavior is, for example, overeating when you’re trying to lose weight or improve your diet with more nutrient-dense foods.
This is okay! It’s completely fine. The important part of this situation is you realizing that you’re human and that you can continue shaping the habit and making positive change. One step back can lead to many more steps forward.
There was a TED talk I watched about habits; I’ll link it here. One interesting takeaway I obtained from it was this: When you perform a negative behavior or even a negative habit, take the time to reflect on your current feelings about it. Do you feel good about yourself when you do it? No, right? Remember that. Remember how that feels and understand that you don’t want to feel that way again, so work to make a change!
I hope these tips and TED talk help you to make positive changes in your life. It’s never too late to make a change for the better! Share this with someone who could use some help making good changes in their lives! Enjoy the video and thanks for reading.