Adopting Healthy Behaviors and Habits
Healthy behaviors and habits apply to all aspects of your health and well-being, from nutrition and fitness to mental and financial health. But adopting healthy behaviors and habits can be easier said than done. Consider these tips and techniques to help you adopt healthy behaviors and habits:
- Make preventive care a priority. Regular check-ins with your primary care doctor to talk about your health and how you’re feeling will lay essential foundation for you to build other healthy habits on. Your doctor can also offer guidance for habits or behaviors that you may struggle with, as well as keep you on track with preventive screenings and immunizations.
- Focus on one thing at a time. Remember, healthy lifestyle habits are for the long haul. With that in mind, incorporate behavior changes one at a time. It’s easier to focus on one thing and adjust to that change before moving on to the next thing.
- Give yourself time to adjust. Once you’ve decided what healthy behavior you’re going to focus on, give yourself time to get used to it. This could be as little as two weeks or as long as several months. Stick with the one habit until it’s almost effortless—it’s just part of your routine. Then move on to the next habit.
- Connect your behaviors or habits to goals. Changing a habit or behavior can be tough, and without knowing why it’s important, you may be less likely to stick with it. By making the connection between your behaviors and your goals, you’re giving yourself a reason for the behavior. So when you choose a behavior change, ask yourself why and how it will help you live healthier.
- Set realistic goals. Break your goals into short-term and long-term check points. For example, if the behavior you’re trying to change is to reduce needless spending, your short-term goal might be to buy one or two fewer coffees each week. Your long-term goal might be to not buy coffees, and pack a lunch for work every day.
- Hold yourself accountable. Depending on the change you’re trying to make, how you hold yourself accountable may look different. Regardless, a good technique is to choose something that is visible. This could be keeping a log book or food journal, checking in with a friend or family member regularly for support, joining a group, or even just marking the days on the calendar when you stick with your habit.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Change is often uncomfortable. If you’re trying to adopt healthier eating habits, you might start with replacing sweets with a piece of fresh fruit. You may miss the satisfaction of a high fat, high sugar food at first, and that’s uncomfortable. But by taking yourself out of your comfort zone and sticking it out until it becomes your new norm, you’re taking positive steps toward healthy lifestyle habits. It won’t be uncomfortable forever.
- Find your intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the reward or benefit you experience as the result of your efforts. So if you’re trying to eat less fast food, your intrinsic motivation might be that you have more energy and you physically feel better, and that makes you want to continue eating less (or no) fast food. Intrinsic motivation is a direct result of your effort, and can’t be bought, which often makes it a better motivator than tangible rewards.
- Identify your stressors. Stressful situations and times can make it difficult to keep up with healthy behaviors. Before you get to that point, think about the things and situations that stress you out, and come up with a plan to help you get through those stressful times. That way, you’re prepared to deal with the stressor without your healthy habits taking a hit. Think of it as relapse prevention.
- Create a relapse plan. Life happens, and sometimes you slip up. Instead of getting upset and giving up, create a relapse plan from the beginning so that you’re ready in case you need it. Think about the things that might cause you to relapse, and write down how you would overcome them. Keep your relapse plan someplace where you can refer to it later, if needed.
Source: American Council on Exercise