How to Form New Healthy Habits Successfully This Year
Monday, January 1, 2018
One thing I learned over the years is this – one size does not fit all. One of the most common occurrences in the wellness and weight loss industries is the “This worked for me. It will work for you, too!” phenomenon. Some guy loses 40 pounds in 40 days by eating twigs and berries, writes a book, and proclaims you will have the same result. Some gal with rock hard abs in a sports bra and little bitty shorts jumps and down on a strange looking apparatus, crows you too can look like her in only 10 minutes a day.
With the start of the New Year, these self-improvement marketers will be in full swing promising everything from weight loss to better organizational skills. All you have to do is buy their program or product. Unfortunately, we all know this is not true. New habits take commitment, time, and a bit of trial and error. A sense of humor and a willingness to start over when you “fall off the wagon” doesn’t hurt either. While there is no magic formula for attaining your New Year’s resolutions, there are a few simple guidelines for forming healthy habits.
Start Small and Be Specific
Some goals are too lofty, too vague, or too hard. For example, if the goal is lose weight and get fit – what does that mean? Lose 10 pounds or 100? Walk around the block or run a marathon? To form a new habit successfully, start small and be specific. For example, instead of “eat better” try “replace one unhealthy snack with veggies”or “one soda with water.” Instead of “get fit”, try “walk 15 minutes per day.” Small steps allow you to feel in control. When something is do-able, we are more apt to do it!
A trigger is something that leads you to do something else automatically. For example, the end of mealtime often triggers the desire for a cigarette for smokers. Use triggers in a positive way. If you commit to doing five jumping jacks every time a commercial comes on. After a few weeks, you will automatically get up off the couch when a commercial is running. Visual cues help too. Laying your workout clothes on the bed in the morning will encourage you to work out when you get home from work.
Plan Ahead and Do It Early
Know what kind of person you are – early bird or night owl. If you are a morning person, get up and exercise first thing while you have energy. If eating healthy is the goal, consider using a Crockpot or Instantpot to get the meal going while you are busy during the day. Also, make sure you have everything you need for success. If you want to walk during your lunch break, take an extra set of sneakers to work and leave them there.
Make it Fun and Convenient
A couple years back, I joined a gym and only went about five times the whole year. Why? It wasn’t convenient. It was about 15 miles from my house and about 50 from my workplace! Needless to say, I did not renew that membership. Instead, I found a local workout class about three miles from my house and have stuck with it for over a year and a half now. Most of all make it fun. Being healthy should not be a drudgery. Find ways to make new habits and lifestyle change enjoyable. Walk and talk with a friend, watch healthy cooking videos, reward yourself with a new shirt after losing 5 pounds…
Don’t Break the Chain
Wellness blogger, Deane Alban, recalled this story about Jerry Seinfeld. When Seinfeld was an unknown, he created the habit of writing new material daily using a wall calendar and a red marker. Every day that he managed to write, he would put a big red "X" on the calendar. He didn't want to see any blank days that "broke the chain." Alban believes that if you use this technique for one month, you'll find your new habit will largely be formed. Along the same vein, some people choose to post their progress on social media as a form of “don’t break the chain.”
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health. If you have questions or an idea for a future article, contact Lorraine at (585) 335-4327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.