We set ambitious goals of exercising five times a week, meal prepping every Sunday, and reading a handful of books every month. And then we fail and get frustrated when we don't reach our lofty goals. Sound familiar?
We're creatures of habit. We usually wake up at the same time every day, have our sacred morning coffee routine, and get ready to tackle the day's to-do list. But why is it so difficult to form new, healthier habits?
It's because we create these habits the wrong way. Our resolutions are bold, and we don't take the small steps that are required to set us up for success. Here are a few tips to help you form new, healthy habits and to actually stick to them.
1. Stack your habits
Experts say one of the best ways to form a new habit is to add it to one that already exists. Take a look at your average day. Do you notice any patterns? Think about how you can use what you already do to create healthier, positive changes. Morning routines are usually the strongest for most people. If you have a coffee ritual every morning, you can easily add on a 10-minute journaling practice or meditation to that time. Or, you could say a few self-affirmations out loud while making your bed every morning.
If nighttime routines are your thing, think about adding in some light exercise, like stretching or yoga, while catching up on your favorite TV show, instead of flopping on the couch and scrolling on your phone.
2. Start off small
If you start with smaller habits, the more likely they are to stick. Smaller habits require lower amounts of motivation, and they don't seem as daunting. Therefore, they're much more doable and more likely to become a part of your new routine. Tiny habits = major results.
If you're new to exercise and you're thinking of starting a habit of regularly working out, try adding a short walk or 20 minutes of yoga or stretching to your day. It's much easier to add in a small, simpler workouts to your day, rather than trying to power through two hours of lifting at the gym. Basically, you have to ditch the all-or-nothing approach.
Healthier eating is another popular habit that many of us try to take on. Instead of completely clearing out your pantry and only surviving on kale chips and salads, opt for adding a handful of strawberries or carrots to your lunch every day. Gradually adding in healthier snacks each day could lead you to adopting better eating habits overall.
3. Do it every single day
Everyone knows that a new habit takes quite a bit of time before it becomes automatic. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that the amount of time for a task to become automatic ranged from 18–254 days. The average time was 66 days. Essentially, habits form faster the more we do them. That's why it's so important to start off small with something that is reasonable to do.
Once your light walk, yoga session, or healthy snacks become automatic, you can kick it up a notch and explore more intense exercises and healthier meals.
4. Make it simple
If we clear the obstacles that are in our way of forming new habits, the more likely we are to create these new habits and actually stick to them. Let's say you just finished up work around 6 p.m. — you're absolutely exhausted. It was a full day booked with meetings, and the last thing you want to do is pack up your gym bag, change into your workout clothes, and hit the gym.
If you already have your gym bag packed and ready to go by the door, you will have removed an obstacle, making it easier to find the motivation to get yourself up and over to the gym.
Also, exercises like push-ups, crunches, or jumping jacks don't require you to leave the house. These workouts make it even easier to get some exercise in each day. Something small is always better than nothing.
5. Reward yourself
Taking care of yourself and treating yourself plays a big role in forming new habits. Some rewards are more immediate than others; for example, when you sip on a cup of coffee, you're rewarded with a boost of energy and motivation to start your day. But rewards like weight loss and losing inches from exercising and eating healthy take some time.
However, there's some good news — you can add on your own immediate rewards for the ones that take longer to show up. You could listen to your favorite podcasts or an audiobook while you go walking or running, or you could make a friend an accountability partner and exercise with them. You get to spend time with a friend while also achieving your goals. It's a win-win.
Using these 5 tips to form new, healthy habits will make a major difference in your overall physical and mental health. At OnSite Wellness, we prioritize health and wellness. Incorporating a wellness program at your workplace can have massive benefits for your employees in managing their health. Contact us to learn more!