Our Founder, Kristin Oja, has a podcast called Little By where she talks about how little by little a little becomes a lot. I have been a health coach for almost 10 years, and I could not agree more! My clients who implement small changes instead of trying to drastically overhaul their life overnight are the ones who create long lasting habits. I know what it is like to have a big goal like working out 5 days a week only to fail miserably because one of my kids gets sick or life in general happens. I work with our patients to help them create small, realistic, goals that are attainable. The most important thing is that you feel SUCCESSFUL and not like a failure (a phrase I don’t like). I also help people to figure out ways to meet their goals while also enjoying life!
When developing new habits, it is very important to figure out your WHY. Why do you want to eat more fruits and vegetables? Why do you want to exercise 3 days a week for 30 minutes? Why do you want to go to bed by 10pm? Why do you want incorporate daily self-care? Most of my health habits are driven by the fact that I want to feel my best, have more energy for myself and my family, and live a long and healthy life. The most important thing is to get clear on your WHY, and always come back to it when you feel stuck or discouraged.
Here are 8 tips for developing new habits AND keeping them!
- Ask yourself what is one new habit you want to form? I often ask my patients, what is one thing that you want to be doing for your health that you aren’t currently doing and know will make you feel better?
If you know where you want start, that is great! If you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas.
- Start working out
- Incorporate more NEAT movement into your day or non-exercise activity thermogenesis which is the calories burned by the movements we make when we go about our daily business like getting the laundry, walking to the bathroom, or getting up to get more water.
- Eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
- Consume less processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and/or the news
- Quit smoking
- Get 7-8.5 hours of quality sleep
- Go “screen-free” 30 minutes before bed
- Incorporate 5 minutes of self-care daily
- Practice deep breathing
- Let go of a relationship that isn’t serving you
- Figure out what fills your cup
- Spend uninterrupted time with family
- Be realistic and keep it simple. For instance, maybe you haven’t been working out at all but want to commit to 5 days a week. 5 days a week is a great long-term goal, but I recommend starting smaller like working out 2-3 days a week. It will much easier to be consistent, and, therefore, feel successful at the end of each week which will encourage you to keep going.
- Work your new habit into what you are already doing. A great way to create a new habit is to tack it onto something you already do every day! For example, maybe you could workout right after your drop your kids off at school or daycare. With so many people working from home right now, another option could be to workout at home for 10-30 minutes before you eat lunch. Bring your workout clothes to your home office so you can change into them right when you are done with your morning. Eventually, it will become as automatic as brushing your teeth.
- Commit to 66 days. Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team figured out how long it actually takes to form a habit. The answer: 66 days. At least 2 months (or about 66 days, on average), according to this study of 96 people. The good news is that researchers did not find that missing one opportunity to perform the new habit behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process. Truly, what matters is what you do MOST of the time. Aim to be consistent…not perfect. This is why I like to check in monthly with our patients. Oftentimes, they want to stay the course but just like to check in for accountability. Other times, we need to rework a goal if they are in a particularly busy season of life. Once they feel like they have established something as a new habit and have incorporated it into their lifestyle, then we move on.
- Plan for obstacles. Planning for obstacles is a very important part of the process of forming new habits. If you can plan for obstacles, you will be more successful at overcoming them.
Here are some common obstacles I hear:
- I don’t have enough time.
- I am too tired.
- It is too expensive.
- The weather hasn’t been cooperating.
- Work is taking has been crazy busy.
If any one of these comes up for you, then you need to have a plan B so that you can still accomplish your goals. For example, if you don’t have time to workout over the lunch hour like you had planned, then commit to taking a quick 10-15 power walk before dinner. Remember, something is ALWAYS better than nothing. If you are too tired to exercise, then think about how you will feel when you are done!
- Keeping track of your accomplishments, will help you to stay committed to the process. Also, letting someone else know about your goals keeps you accountable especially if you know they are going to check in on you! You could tell your partner, coworker, or health coach! Some people like to keep track on their calendars while others like to make their goals public and then post about their journey on social media. Figure out what works for you!
- Reward yourself along the way. Creating a new habit can be tough, but if you have something to look forward to it can help you to stay focused on your goals. Some people like to choose milestones to reward themselves. Once you have completed your milestone like working out 3 days a week for 3 weeks, then you could do something for yourself that you enjoy like spending a weekend afternoon at the coffeeshop listening to podcasts or reading or getting a massage. Life is too short not to enjoy it!
- Congratulations! You have created a new and healthy habit that fits into your lifestyle. Remember, it is not about perfection but, rather, progress. Life WILL happen and your priorities might need to shift for different seasons of life, but now you have the tools to find your way back to your WHY and proceed from there. Everyday is a new chance to do your best to feel your best!
If you are finding that it is hard to follow through with your goals, I would love to work with you! I am here to be your accountability partner and support you on your health and wellness journey. You can book an appointment with me here.
Cheers to developing AND keeping new habits!