How to build healthy habits
Whatever health goals you may have, implementing good habits is key to set yourself up for success, particularly if you want to see long lasting change.
When embarking on a new challenge or goal, motivation is often high, and so putting in effort into it feels easy. Any hurdles and obstacles which come your way often seem easier to handle and overcome. But over time, the motivation we once had at the start takes a dip, and it can seem like the thought of achieving your goals you set out to do are too far to reach. Sound familiar?
While this is very common to experience, without habits in place, it will be a lot harder to see your goals come to fruition. Ryun’s quote captures why habit formation is key.
They say motivation gets you started and habits is what keeps you going - Jim Ryun
Habit formation is often overlooked but integral when working towards any goal, so here are our top tips to help you establish habits that will help to make achieving your goals easier.
Instead of trying to make big changes from the start, take a look at where you are now, and identify what small changes you can make in your life. Pick some small and simple. The easier you can make it, the easier it will be to stick to. Over time, you’ll see the big impact of that small change.
For example, if your goal is to eat more veggies, instead of thinking about changing your current diet completely, how about adding an extra piece of vegetable to the dishes you usually make? Which one sounds like something you can stick to more easily?
Another example could be if your goal is to go for a walk in the morning, it can be as simple as making it a habit of putting your trainers on. Often starting is the hardest part, so being able to prompt action at this point can be really helpful in reducing resistance to behaviours that are going to help you in reaching your goals.
It’s a lot easier to do something small at any time rather than making drastic changes in one go.
The key in seeing progress is turning those single events into repeated behaviours.
Having prompts or cues can help remind us to take a certain action, which can be really useful when trying to form useful habits. For example, if you want to make a habit of going to the gym, leaving your gym kit in sight can act as a useful reminder of your intentions to go to the gym. Chances are you would be more likely to go and put your gym kit on if it’s in view than if it were hidden in your wardrobe.
Have a think about your current environment and what cues you can make more visible to help with good habits, and how you might reduce exposure to cues that cause unhelpful habits.
Stack your habits
If establishing a new habit without any prompt or trigger feels like a challenge, you can try pairing a new habit with a current habit. This is called habit stacking. Say for example, if you want to improve your flexibility and you often tell yourself you’ll stretch at home after you’ve completed your workout in the gym, only to never action it, you can make it a habit of going to the stretch area in the gym as soon as you’ve finished a workout.
Keeping habits small and simple is key. Whilst such a small action may not feel like much, over time, it will reap big results. Research shows that it takes an average 66 days to form a habit so use this time to focus on mastering good habits so they become second-nature. You may not see results immediately, but over a threshold, the results will be big, so stick with it!
Tiny changes added up over time make big changes
If you find yourself falling and slipping up, remember that it’s okay! Learn from them and adjust the plan or habit if needed.
Tracking your progress can help you stay motivated in sticking to your newfound habits. One way to do this is to cross a box off your calendar for every time you’ve actioned the new habit (or have eliminated a bad habit). This can serve as a great reminder visually of all the days you stuck to actions that are serving you to help you reach your goal.
Don't forget to celebrate the small wins too!
Every achievement, no matter how small, is valid. Establishing rewards can help too - for example, after completing a workout, you can make reward yourself for going the workout by watching your favourite TV show.
Above all, it’s important to choose habits that are conducive to your needs and goals. Where possible, try to make it as enjoyable as possible, be persistent, and don’t be too hard on yourself on the days you slip. Remember you can always work on it the next day and adapt if necessary.
For more tips like this check out our Starting Out in the Gym guide.