10 Ways to Make a Healthy New Habit Stick
New habits can be really tricky; often we can manage them for a week or so, but then they fall by the wayside. Here are ten simple tips for making your new habit stick:
- Know yourself
It took me a while to realise it, but now I know that for me, a big change doesn’t work. I can make a huge lifestyle and/or diet change, and stick to it like glue – for a maximum of three days. After this point I rebel against the new routine and go a bit mad! For me, lasting change comes when I take small steps rather than giant leaps.
- Commit to small changes
Rather than saying “I’m never eating biscuits again” tell yourself you won’t have them today. Instead of “I’m cutting out all carbs” commit to eating 5% fewer carbs. Anyone can go without biscuits for a day, or cut their carb intake by 5%. A small change like this is easier to keep up, and once it becomes the norm you can make another small change.
- Tie it into your existing routine
If you say to yourself, “yep, I’m going to do that at some point today” we all know it won’t happen. Whether it’s getting in a workout, taking supplements or reading a self development work, you need to decide on exactly when you’re going to do it – and then tie it to something you’re already doing. I decided I wanted to start drinking green juice every day, and at first I kept forgetting. Then I made it a part of my morning routine; I make my green juice while I’m making breakfast for S. If I’m having a second one in the day, I make it while I’m making lunch for S. I’m in the kitchen any way at that time, and usually while S is eating breakfast I will sit at the table and read a magazine so drinking green juice at the same time fits in with this.
- Make it easy
If you want to workout in the morning, get everything ready the night before and put it at the foot of your bed so that you don’t have to find it in the morning. If you want to start your day by drinking water, put a glass or bottle of water on your bedside table the night before. I bought a new exercise programme, and kept thinking I really should get on and do it, but whenever I thought that, I was in a different room to the equipment I needed. Now I’ve put my exercise mat next to my bed with the equipment I need, so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up – and when I go to bed at night, it’s there to remind me.
- Ignore the 21 days rule
Everyone always says that it takes 21 days to make a habit; that’s wrong. Research shows that actually, depending on the person and the action, new habits can be formed much more quickly – or they can take much longer. People who pick up new habits quickly do so because they’ve taken steps to ensure they will. Once it becomes part of your daily routine, you’ll do it without thinking – whether that’s in one week or seven weeks.
- Use an app.
I don’t know about you, but I love a gold star or a graph so apps work really well for me – but only on the things I care about, and only a couple. I’ve tried downloading other apps to track other things, and I find I never open them. The two I stick with are Fitbit and Insight Timer. I use my Fitbit to track my steps, weight and water intake mostly. You set a target and when you hit it, you get a star. It helps me to make sure I’m moving about during the day, and that I’m getting enough water. You can also add friends and set up daily or weekly challenges, which will motivate you if you are competitive. Insight Timer is my big hero here though. It’s an app for meditation, and I have used it to meditate at least once a day, for 100 days in a row now. Each time you meditate it tweets, so you get that social proof, each time you hit a milestone (10 days in a row or 50 days over all) you get a star and it tweets that too. It sounds ridiculous, but using Insight Timer to track my meditation has seen me turn meditation from something I did when I remembered to a proper practice I perform every morning and evening. (NB I am not affiliated in any way with Insight Timer; I just think it’s great)
- Think about how you’ll feel.
People who take up smoking or drugs don’t need to set a reminder on their phone to go and smoke/shoot up! They do it because of how it makes them feel. When you’re trying to motivate yourself to do something new, whether it’s exercising or eating more vegetables, remind yourself of how you will feel when you’ve done it. Usually when we finish a workout we feel good, and over time it helps to regulate mood. Eating more vegetables will make you feel more virtuous than if you go and get a McDonalds… and remember how you feel after you’ve eaten a McDonalds too! (other greasy crap stores are available)
- Get accountability
Accountability is not just saying on social media, “I’m going to drink more water this week.” I hate to break it to you, but nobody is watching your feed that intently! If you don’t drink more water, will anyone who follows you on Facebook message you to pull you up on it? Doubtful! The trick with accountability is finding a way to make it work for you. So you might join an accountability group on Facebook (or set one up for yourself and some friends) where you all post regularly about what you’re doing, and people will comment and encourage you. You might arrange to meet someone else for your weekly run, knowing that if you decide not to go you’ll be letting someone else down. One great idea I heard about was telling your friend, partner or children that you’re going to do this thing, and if you don’t do it, you’ll pay them £10 or they can punish you in some way, have a treat etc.
- Watch what you’re saying
The words we use when talking to others and to ourselves really do make a difference. Instead of saying “I’m trying to be more healthy” say “I’m making positive changes in my life.” Remove the part where you’re trying or thinking about it! The words we use – even the ones we use in our heads – really make a difference. Make it more of a definite thing you’re doing, rather than a wishy-washy trying to do and you’ll find that it’s easier to keep up.
- See it as an experiment
Instead of saying you will never do something again, or that you will always do something forever more, tell yourself you’ll try it for a set amount of time, and see how you feel. This means you’re not faced with never having doughnuts ever again; if you want a doughnut, you know there is a set point in the future where you can have one, if you want. But you also might find that not eating doughnuts makes you feel so fantastic, you don’t actually want one!
- Know yourself