The kids are back at school, the leaves are starting to turn and a new season is just around the corner, so let’s start it right!
As many of our long-forgotten new year’s resolutions will demonstrate, creating healthy habits that truly stick around can be really challenging, but what might surprise you is that willpower is not necessarily the culprit for our non-stick habits.
In fact, a lot goes into successfully forming healthy habits and in this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to set yourself up for success. Let’s start by looking at the science of habits…
Creatures of habit
There’s a reason we’re called ‘creatures of habit’ – the human brain is actually designed to automate certain repeated behaviours in order to preserve brainpower wherever it can.
For example, ever noticed how you can now think about your entire to-do list, sing along to your favourite songs and navigate the roads all while driving but when you were first learning you couldn’t even hold a conversation? That’s because your brain has made driving a habit – an automated behaviour that requires limited brain power (it’s better used remembering the lyrics to Kylie anyway, right?!).
A habit is simply a behaviour that’s been repeated enough to become automated by your brain. So, how do we form new habits and drop old ones?
Forming good habits
The first (and most essential) step in creating a healthy habit is to envision the type of person you want to become. Often we get sucked into a negative thought pattern by focusing on the behaviours we want to take away. However, studies have actually found that striving towards a positive change in your behaviour and your self-identity is the most successful way to implement lasting habits.
For example, if you’re looking to lose weight, it’s far more beneficial for you to focus on the behaviours that you would like to implement and the person you would like to become rather than the habits or identity you want to move away from.
It’s so tempting to go full steam ahead on new healthy habits when motivation strikes, but the key to implementing lasting habits is by starting small. As creatures of habit, our brains don’t like it when we stray from our routine but by making more manageable, incremental changes to your behaviour you’ll be able to maintain change and make it sustainable.
Ideally work on 1 habit at a time, for example, if you’ve never been one to exercise but you want to get moving, start by simply going on a walk a few times a week. Each time you pop your trainers on you’re building evidence for your brain that will help it recognise a repeated behaviour and make forming your new healthy habit that much easier.
Whether you’re a list-maker (like me), or need a buddy to keep you accountable (join my Facebook group full of like-minded women here), keeping track of your new habits is a great way to make sure you’re staying on the right path to forming a sustainable change to your lifestyle.
Habit tracking apps like Streaks, Done, or Tally (there are so many) are perfect for those looking for a simple tick-off list, or if you’re looking for a way to check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling I recommend daily journaling – it’s a great way to keep yourself accountable and have an honest record of the process.
Need some habit inspiration? Here are 3 keystone habits to introduce this Autumn…
So, we now know how to start forming habits that will actually stick but which habits should we be introducing?
Creating a healthy lifestyle can look different to all of us, but there are some lifestyle habits that have a broad appeal for helping us stay healthy and feel great. Here are some keystone habits to try and implement this Autumn…
It might not be the sweaty spin class you had in mind for the post-summer refresh (remember what we said about starting small) but getting enough good quality sleep should be at the top of all our lists when making healthy changes. Sleep is essential for literally every function in our bodies from ensuring our organs function optimally, to regulating our hormones, to making behavioural changes easier – so if you’re thinking about kickstarting a healthy routine make sure it starts with getting enough good quality sleep!
As humans, we’re built to move (a considerable amount more than we do these days) so implementing exercise into our daily routines can have a multitude of benefits. Not only does exercise help our bodies stay fit and strong, it can also help us feel less stressed by completing the natural stress cycle.
When we feel stressed our bodies produce everything we need for ‘fight or flight’ so when we use up that energy with exercise as our bodies naturally intended, it completes the cycle and allows our bodies to return to a relaxed state. Less stress also means better sleep which in turn means you’re more likely to stick to other new habits! Win-win!
Eating healthy foods
We all know eating whole foods and maintaining a healthy diet is good for us but sticking to it can be challenging when life gets in the way – which is why it’s so important to set yourself up for success. A tool that I use and that I recommend to all of my clients is meal planning!
Planning your meals ahead of time makes eating nutritious, filling and delicious meals super easy. It takes the stress out of the food shop and the temptation out of the kitchen so you’re set up to succeed. If you struggle with knowing what to cook or you slip out of healthy meals come the weekend, my Meal Planning Guide is totally free and helps you on your way to forming a truly sustainable habit!
One last thing…
Finally, it’s important to note that forming habits isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t quick. Have some compassion with yourself, introduce these new behaviours incrementally and be mindful that you can’t achieve your goals all at once. Remember, focusing on the positive changes you can make is far more helpful than focusing on the negative. Every step you take towards forming a new habit is a vote for the type of person you want to become!
If you would like some support creating and implementing sustainable healthy habits, I’m here to help! I work with my clients to help them introduce healthy habits that stick, with mindset adjustments, nutritional education and hands-on support to help you make healthy changes that last a lifetime. To find out more about how we can work together click here!
And download my FREE Meal Planning Guide – set yourself up for success and watch your life change one healthy habit at a time!