Healthy Habits

Amanda King
Written by Amanda King

How To Stick To Them

Do you find that you begin the New Year with enthusiasm, ready to create the ‘new you’.  You create a plan for great health, a new exercise regime or make a promise to quit something like alcohol or the afternoon sweet tea and biscuits….

Image by Fiete Becher from Pixabay

Everything starts off brilliantly with all guns blazing only for those resolutions to fall by the wayside a few weeks later once the novelty has worn off…  feeling fed up as you admit defeat, you fall back to your old ways.

Why do so many of us fall into this pattern?

What makes people stick to their New Year’s Resolutions and achieve what they really want?

What do we need to know to stick to our own resolutions?

The answers may be a lot simpler than you think!

We are all creatures of excuses,  procrastination and we humans are often inherently lazy. In the relatively new sport of CrossFit (which involves gymnastics, weightlifting and body conditioning) the first rule is ‘Just Show Up!’. The reason why is simple. If you show up… the rest will naturally follow. Once you are there, you won’t think about not doing the workout, it will just happen.

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And that’s what you need to do with your resolutions and goals… make success easy and unavoidable. Set yourself up for success not failure… so how does that happen?

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear gives his strategy for forming new habits.

  1. Make the habit super easy
  2. Habit Stacking
  3. Make tiny incremental changes.
  4. Never Miss Twice
  5. Don’t expect too much progress too quickly

1. Make it so easy you can’t say no – Leo Babauta

Willpower is not endless. Imagine you only have a certain amount of it and the places you choose to spend that willpower will use it up that day until you have none left. You won’t be able to create any more willpower easily and you will set yourself up for failure if you have to rely on willpower alone to achieve your goals.  What this means is that you need to reduce your activity down to something so easy that it’s no chore at all.

Example: Instead of saying, I am going to walk 1 hour a day (from a standing start) say, I am going to get out of the house for 5 minutes a day.   Make it so easy that you don’t need any willpower to get going.

The habit is what’s important, once you are used to the habit, you can build on it, but for now, you need to create the habit and make that a part of your lifestyle. The rest will follow.

2. Habit Stacking

If you know that you will do something every day, then you already have that as a habit. If it’s well engrained like reaching for that first morning coffee for example or going out to get the mail the that is the time to add your new activity onto your existing habit. If you already do something, then you just have to place a really obvious cue or trigger in the very place you know that you will be or that you will see and the rest will happen effortlessly.

Example: You leave your walking shoes and coat ready by the door and you move your headphones charging cable to the same worktop where you make your coffee. That way when you make that coffee you see your headphones and you know  that what follows is the 10 minute walk where you listen to your audiobooks (perhaps Atomic Habits) or your favourite music. The cue will remind you so that you can’t slip. Effortless.

Photo by Maria Orlova

3. Make tiny incremental increases in your progress as time goes on.

Remember that the habit first and foremost is import. Always show up and consider that a non-negotiable aspect of your lifestyle. Once it feels like a part of your regular lifestyle then increase your walking time to 15 minutes or increase your speed a little to walk further in the same time. Make those very small changes every couple of weeks and you will barely notice the individual changes but will make huge progress over the long term… you could easily be doing all the things you dream of with consistent effort… but you need to go slow.

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4. Never miss twice.

Sometimes we might have to miss our habit for some reason. Even the most disciplined of us slip up. The difference between top performing people and those that don’t make the progress they want to is that top performers get back on track quickly. So you missed one, fine… get back on track and stay the course… but don’t miss twice! Make that your rule! Remember the first rule of CrossFit? – just show up!  Never miss twice.

5. Don’t expect too much progress too quickly.

If your goal is to quit the sugar habit and you have 4 cups of sugary tea a day. You probably know that this is contributing to high blood sugar and it’s a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes, so you’ve decided to get healthier and go sugar free. Perhaps losing one of the spoons of sugar a day in week one, then two spoons a day in week 2 and so on. Or reduce each week by a small amount in each cup to allow your body to adjust slowly… if you keep making small amounts of progress then you will barely notice the process but very soon those small changes will add up to large overall changes that really start to have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing.

Photo by Valeriia Miller

Remember to notice what rewards you for your efforts.

Feeling a little more energetic?

Sleeping better?

Feeling happier?

These are all the rewards that make you feel good and it’s worth being mindful of these rewards and using them as motivation to keep yourself going.

Whatever your goals or wishes or resolutions are, remember that you can start a habit at any time. Be clear about what you want to achieve and follow the above steps to bring success to all your plans and goals.

Main – Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash