February is coming to a close. How are you doing with your new year’s intention?
The new year surfaces a strong desire for positive lifestyle changes. However, releasing unwanted habits and creating new, healthy habits that actually stick can feel overwhelming and impossible at times.
Unwanted habits slowly build up over time and become the new normal. Creating new, healthy habits can feel unfamiliar and difficult to integrate into your daily life. The new habits may stick for a few days or weeks, but you may find yourself slowly reverting to old convenient and less healthy habits.
How can you create healthy habits that actually stick with you for the long haul?
The secret to creating lasting lifestyle changes is to make it as easy as possible. Try these eight simple tips below:
1. Follow the breadcrumbs and pursue your interests
Make sure you have chosen an area of your life and activities that seem interesting. If it doesn’t spark your interest, readjust your goals. Don’t force yourself to do something unappealing. If you don’t like the gym, explore other possibilities like dance classes, walking a dog, rock climbing, hiking, hula hooping, you name it! You can change up your routine to avoid boredom. If you don’t like sitting behind a computer and applying to jobs, try reaching out to friends and acquaintances, set up informational interviews, attend networking events, or enter a company’s office to get a feel for the environment.
2. Write your goals down
Writing your goals down keeps them relevant and top of mind. Display your goals either through words or images in a place that you look at on a regular basis such as your fridge, bedroom door, or bathroom mirror.
3. Commit to three to six months
It takes roughly three months of practice for a new habit to replace an unwanted habit. Try out your new habits for at least three months. If you find yourself getting off track, correct yourself as soon as you’re aware.
4. Create a pattern: same day and time every week
Commit to practicing your new habit on repetitive days of the week, at the same time of the day. A habit would stick easier if it was practiced on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8:00 AM versus different days and times each week. It is easiest to practice your new habit consistently.
5. Connect habits with something that you already do
Sync your new habit up with an old habit. For example, let’s say you can wake up at 7:30 AM daily and have a morning cup of tea. To integrate your new habit: set your alarm at 7:00 AM, along with your usual morning tea, and follow it with your new habit of 30 minutes of yoga. Your tea becomes a trigger that yoga is coming next. It’s helpful to have reliable triggers for your new habit.
6. Expect resistance: keep moving forward
Making changes is not easy. You may wake up some days and not feel like doing your new behavior. Expect that will likely happen and keep moving forward. With time and consistency, the new habit will feel more natural and eventually become the new normal.
7. Create motivation
Connect to a higher purpose of why you are creating this new habit. What will you want to look back on at the end of your life? What will give your life meaning and fulfillment? How will your new habit contribute to your larger life vision? If you don’t have an answer to these questions yet, it’s worth spending time journaling and reflecting. Several tricks for motivation include: putting an inspiring photo on the fridge, hanging motivational quotes on the mirror, tracking your progress on your calendar, creating phone reminders, and working with your coach. You can reward yourself for accomplishments with a massage, a movie, or a gift. You can motivate yourself by working toward a larger goal, such as a half-marathon, a hiking trip, or an upcoming vacation. Motivation also builds as you continue making progress towards your goals.
8. Create a support system
Going through changes alone is not always easy. Recruit family, friends, coworkers, and community members to support you. They can either join you in your new habits or check in with you for accountability. Getting support from a certified health coach is helpful for structure, clarity, motivation, confidence, and accountability.
Creating healthy lifestyle habits can be challenging at first, so don’t give up. Once you start making progress, you will notice the benefits rippling into different areas of your life and positively impacting those around you.
Invest in yourself and your well-being, and you will not regret it.