This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the Great Health Guide, a 96five community contributor.
Have you ever felt confused or frustrated over the conflicting messages around creating healthy habits? Have you ever felt that creating new healthy habits is too challenging for busy people? Perhaps you have slipped into some bad habits and are eager to get your healthy habits back on track but just don’t know how? Here are some ideas for creating healthy habits, stay healthy and be healthy.
Firstly, there are two main reasons people find it hard when creating healthy habits:
- Relying only on good intentions.
The reality is it’s not enough to just want change and hope for it. Too people crave changes but aren’t prepared to make any. If the choice is to change then you need to commit. Full stop. No excuses. It’s not enough to simply hope for healthy habits. The worst thing in the world is for you to make the decision to change and take no action. As the saying goes, ‘If you change nothing, then nothing will change!’
- Relying only on willpower.
We only have a set amount of willpower. We all know this because we’ve all reached that point in the day where we just can’t do it anymore. Willpower is a bit like a muscle. It will engage as you flex, but will eventually weaken and fail when it is fatigued. Willpower is NOT the best way to create lasting transformation. It is fine for short-term projects, like studying for an exam or fasting but not for sustained, long term changes like those that are required for lasting transformation. But, that’s where habits come in. Motivation and willpower is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
Change is possible.
There is no doubt about it – change can be hard but I’m a living example that it is possible. In tiny, baby steps, I’ve changed quite a few bad habits in my time and replaced them with new, healthier rituals and routines. I started running, stopped impulse spending, stopped mid-week drinking, started meditating, began meal planning, stopped saying ‘YES’ to everyone and everything, started a morning ritual, invested in my more meaningful relationships, started using ‘affirmations’…you get the picture! It’s possible.
So, what is a habit?
Habits are routine, unconscious behaviours we perform on a regular basis. They allow us to learn to do something that eventually we can perform without having to think about it; like driving a car or brushing our teeth or having a shower.
Motivation & willpower is what gets you started.
Habits are what keeps you going.
Creating healthy habits.
This is the process by which new healthy behaviours become automatic. For example, if you buy a coffee every day on your way to work, you have a habit. If you set an alarm and wake to exercise early, you have a habit. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. This is because the behavioural patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into the neural pathways in our brain.
Practise makes perfect.
The good news is that through repetition it is certainly possible to create healthy habits that are positive. The key is to practise the new habit often and this starts the process of creating a new brain pathway. Research has shown that on average it can take up to 60 days to create a new habit, so you will need to make a deliberate and consistent effort to commit to each new habit for at least two months. After that, you won’t need to flex your willpower muscle so much. You won’t have to think about what you are doing; the behaviour will be automatic.
In Part 2, I will discuss the logic behind how we can change our habits.
Megan McGrath is a professional accredited Wellness Coach, a certified Fitness Trainer and Founder of Chasing Sunrise – a Health and Wellness Consultancy. For more health articles go to 96five community contributor Great Health Guide.