Setting unrealistic goals leads to a repeating cycle of falling off the wagon or completely giving up which can sometimes do more harm than good.
The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
So don’t set the same old goals and expect it to finally work out. Instead, try something new and don’t set goals or make resolutions. Instead try and establish HABITS and ROUTINES that promote a healthier lifestyle. By simply being mindful of these small changes, you will notice huge differences in less time than you think.
So what is a habit?
Habits are routines or behaviors that you repeat enough for them to become subconscious parts of your every day life. Habits can also range from things as big as working out every morning before work to simple actions like checking your mirrors before merging into traffic.
Habits can also be a bad thing.
Looking at your phone isn’t always a bad thing, but pulling it out every time you try to go to sleep may be a bad pattern to endorse. But don’t worry, good habits can be learned over time and bad habits can eventually be kicked as well.
How long does it take to establish new habits?
Building new habits or patterns isn’t always easy and some can be far more difficult to form than others.
The average time needed to start doing something consistently is roughly 66 days, but it can be more or less. Generally speaking the bigger the change the longer it will take to become a habit. If you start drinking more water daily it may take 66 days for it to become a subconscious part of your life but its more likely to take 20 or 30 days. There is also no official timeline for forming a habit. Missing the occasional day wont reset your progress either as long as you get back to your schedule as soon as possible.
Establishing new habits can take a while but when people set a manageable routine they generally find that reaching their goals becomes a lot more reasonable. But how does someone begin to build healthier habits?
Here are 3 simple tips to help establish healthier habits:
1. Make healthier habits more convenient & bad habits less convenient
By changing your environment in ways that makes good habits easier to follow you are giving yourself an instant leg up.
Let’s say you want to start reading more and watching TV less. A good way to start is by leaving a good book by the couch and putting the TV remote in the other room. This way when you sit down it is less effort to just pick up the books than it is to get up and grab the remote. By making your healthy targeted habit more convenient you are enabling yourself to make better choices more easily.
Making healthier options more convenient can also be done by simply planning ahead. For example, after work, the last thing many of us want to do is plan a healthy meal and cook; this may revert us back into old, unhealthy habits. However, if there is an established plan for that dinner it suddenly becomes much easier to put in a little extra effort. By planning dinners ahead of time you can eliminate the mental struggle of eating healthy and just do it.
Another good example is getting up in the morning. Many people get trapped in a viscous cycle of snoozing their alarms over and over before getting up and preparing for the day in a rush. So how do you prevent your daily snoozathon? Easy, just leave your phone on the dresser across the room. By forcing yourself to get out of bed you are eliminating the question of “should I…” and replacing it with a “I have to….”
2. Start building new habits earlier in the day
Studies have shown that cortisol plays an important role in forming healthier habits and cortisol is highest right when you wake up.
One such study followed forty-eight students who were asked to start stretching daily. Half of these students were asked to complete these stretches in the morning right after waking while the other half were asked to stretch right before bed. Over the testing period the students who stretched in the morning were found to adopt the habit of daily stretching roughly 50 days before the group who were stretching at night.
Not everyone has time to go through a stretching routine every morning but here are a few simple habits everyone should start when they wake up.
- Drinking 8 oz of water is a great way to rehydrate and get moving in the morning
- Do a few stretches or pushups to get your blood flowing before the day begins
- Brush your teeth before you go out
- Spend a few minutes meditating on your day before you look at any emails or check social media
These may not be life changing habits but starting your day off with a routine gives you something to help wake up and provides a sense of accomplishment before you ever leave the house.
3.Setting realistic goals & keeping motivated
Healthy habit building tends to be more of a marathon & not a sprint. It takes time and persistence to make a lasting change. So you may be asking…”how can setting goals help you form a healthy habit?”
You need to break your long-term goal into smaller, measurable milestones. Each time you hit a milestone you succeed and rekindle the motivation to continue making habits that will get you to your ultimate goal! When you set short term goals in effort towards a larger goal it gives you a plan to follow.
If the milestones are too difficult and unrealistic you may not reach them and feel demotivated, giving up on your efforts to build a healthier habit.
For example many people will make the resolution to get in better shape. If your first milestone for this goal is to spend 45 minutes working out each day you are probably biting off more than you can chew and many people quickly burn out by setting goals like this. Instead set the smaller goal of doing 30 push ups without stopping. Then you can work to establish a habit of doing 5, 10, then 20 push ups a day, getting closer to your goal. Once you have reached this goal you can move to a bigger goal that brings you closer to the final target.
Start small when incorporating a healthy habit. 10 minutes of exercise 1-3 times a week for 3 weeks may sound pretty simple at first but as the habit forms you will gradually be able to increase the amount of days you exercise and/or length. This could also work by just making a point to include some greens on your plate at least 2 times a week for 3 weeks and gradually increase from there.
Why are healthy habits important?
Healthy habits are vital for upkeep of mental & physical health, and when health is in check, quality of life tends to improve.
The cycle of succeeding and failing can seem endless without a general plan in place, but with a plan and consistency you can engrain new healthier habits and push bad habits to the side.
By establishing a plan and setting habits that are more achievable and convenient you can finally start making progress toward those old health goals that seemed just out of reach.
Looking for guidance and help? Find an accountability buddy! Or check out our WLD programs – each client is assigned their own Wellness Coach who they virtually meet with each week to ensure they are reaching goals and building better habits for a healthier life.