5 Easy Tips to Follow When Trying to Establish New Lifestyle HabitsCheckable Health
Trying to adopt new habits to change your lifestyle for the better is a noble endeavor. Change isn't easy. It's actually pretty challenging, and the desire to make the change and good old willpower alone won't get you there. Making a lasting change takes persistence, effort, energy, and a bit of discipline. But don't let that laundry list of requirements make you give up before you even get started. There are ways to set yourself up for success, and taking on this endeavor with some knowledge of how creating habits works will increase your chances of making your new habit a lifelong one.
Tips to Follow When Trying to Establish New Lifestyle Habits
When you create new habits, try using the following techniques to ramp up your chances of success.
1. Stack your habits
The idea behind the habit stacking technique is to tack a new habit onto an existing one. For example, if your new lifestyle goal is to meditate daily, try to do it right after a daily routine already in place for you. If your existing habit is walking your dog at noon every day, meditate right after. Habit stacking works because you don't have to consider the existing practice. It's already ingrained into your daily routine, making your new habit easier to remember.
2. Make it personal
There is loads of advice out there about what habits you should adopt to have a healthier, more rewarding life, and a lot of it is good advice. But don't assume that recommended practices will always work for you. It's easier to do what we want rather than what others tell us to do. Choose habits that mean something to you and will enrich your life personally. When new practices align with your life goals, success will be easier to achieve.
3. Start small
Let's face it, significant changes in our lives are disruptive. If adding a new habit to your routine is overwhelming, chances are it will be difficult to sustain. Let's stick with the meditation example; if your long-term goal is to meditate for 15 minutes daily, start small with three minutes daily. Once you've mastered your three minutes, you can increase your meditation time. People are generally resistant to doing things that throw their existing routines out of whack. So, let's not do that. Start with a slight change that easily fits into your current routine.
4. Change one habit at a time
Changing too many things at a time can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Too many changes can make it difficult to stay focused. Focusing on one change that will help you progress toward your goals is much more productive.
5. Specifically define your new habit
If your new habit is too general or vague, it will be harder to implement. Set the behavior, the place, and the time. Rather than making your goal "to meditate," define the terms. "I want to meditate for three minutes every day in my bedroom after I walk the dog." Having a clear picture of what your new habit looks like makes it easier to take action.
How Can I Make Sure I Stick to My New Lifestyle Habits?
Sticking to new habits isn’t something that happens magically on its own. However, there are ways to make holding yourself accountable and sticking to the new routine easier.
1. Track your progress
This step can be as simple as a checkmark on your calendar or an entry into a sophisticated app. Whether you track your progress on a digital device or a piece of paper, tracking can keep you motivated when you see how well you've done. Conversely, if you haven't done so well, you'll have a chance to evaluate what may not be working and what's preventing you from adopting your new habit. Maybe you realize you're tired after walking the dog and fall asleep when you try to meditate. Add your meditation habit to an existing practice, like after eating breakfast in the morning.
2. Get friends onboard
When another person is involved in your journey, it's natural to feel more motivated to carry out the behavior you're trying to establish. Not every lifestyle habit is conducive to doing with a buddy, but when your friends know you're trying to make a change, they can give you the support you need to stay accountable and motivated.
Reward yourself for your efforts and progress. Remember, this is an endeavor, or in other words, a serious, determined effort that requires exertion. You would celebrate if you ran a marathon. This habit is your marathon, so get that party started. The positive reinforcement you give yourself will help your new habits stick.
4. Prepare for setbacks
Realizing ahead of time that you may get off course while trying to establish new habits can help you avoid self-criticism, blame, and giving up altogether. It's important to recognize that getting off track will likely happen, so when it does happen, it's not such a big deal.
5. Go easy on yourself
Even though failure feels bad, avoid negative self-talk. You're not doing yourself any favors with it, and negative self-talk will only stand in the way of progressing toward your goals. Besides, life happens. Maybe you just walked the dog, and it's time to meditate, but the school is calling with the news that your child has a fever and needs to be picked up. It's easy to get discouraged, so try to be realistic, maintain positivity, and tap into your support system if you need some extra love.
How Often Should I Evaluate My Progress in Reaching My Lifestyle Goals?
How often you evaluate progress depends on your individual preferences and the habit you're trying to establish. Daily tracking is helpful for patterns that you want to become part of your daily routine, like meditating or drinking more water. However, something like jogging five miles might be something you want to do three times a week. In this case, weekly evaluation is practical. Overall, it's good to see how your progress is increasing over time; a weekly check-in can provide this. Weekly check-ins will motivate you to keep doing what you're doing if things are going well or the insight to make some changes if they're not.
These behavior-changing strategies can go a long way in helping you make successful, lasting changes to your lifestyle habits. It may be intimidating, but remember your motivation and why you want to change. Keep the big picture in mind and start with one small step at a time.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Making lifestyle changes that last. https://www.apa.org/topics/behavioral-health/healthy-lifestyle-changes
Gardner, B., Lally, P., Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice, 62(605), 664–666. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505409/
Kaiser Permanente. (2023, January 13). How to build healthy habits that stick. https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/northern-california/health-wellness/healtharticle.how-to-build-healthy-habits-that-stick
Kate Delaney Chen, BSN, RN-BC is a healthcare writer and registered nurse with over 17 years of bedside experience. She specializes in Psychiatric Nursing and Nephrology and currently works at a nationally recognized inpatient Eating Disorders Program.
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