The reason many of us do not achieve the goals we set for ourselves is because we have either not established the healthy habits to do so or we’ve simply adopted unhealthy habits that get in the way.
A habit is an acquired behavior pattern that you follow so regularly that it becomes almost involuntary. The reason habits are so powerful is because they happen subconsciously and your environment is usually arranged in a way to support that habit.
A habit is not an isolated action – there is a cue that you follow to engage in it. This means that there’s a part of you that knows what it would take to make an object or experience irresistible and there’s a part of you that knows what it would take to make an object or experience something you couldn’t stand.
But most people settle for whatever life provides them, and then they make excuses for why they can’t get the results they desire. But why choose complacency when there is a way to increase and enhance the quality of your life?
There are a number of healthy lifestyle habits that lead to less pain and inflammation, more energy and a longer lifespan. Keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle is not just physical – it also incorporates your mental and emotional health. Though they may take some time to develop, they are well worth the effort as your quality of life is largely dependent on your health. Some of the most important healthy lifestyle habits include:
- Eating a sustainable health diet
- Getting at least eight hours of quality sleep every night
- Finding effective ways to manage stress
- Doing something physically active every day
- Reconnecting with yourself on a regular basis
- Developing deep and supportive relationships
We know that making healthy choices can help us feel better and live longer. You can reduce your risk for the most common, costly, and preventable health problems—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity—by making healthy choices.
Maybe you’ve already tried to eat better, get more exercise or sleep, quit smoking, or reduce stress. It’s not easy. Healthy habits are hard to develop and often require changing your mindset. But if you’re willing to make sacrifices to better your health, the impact can be far-reaching, regardless of your age, sex, or physical ability.
Know Your Habits
Regular things you do—from brushing your teeth to having a few drinks every night—can become habits. Repetitive behaviors that make you feel good can affect your brain in ways that create habits that may be hard to change.
“The first step to changing your behavior is to create an awareness around what you do regularly”, explains Dr. Lisa Marsch, an expert in behavior change at Dartmouth College. “Look for patterns in your behavior and what triggers the unhealthy habits you want to change.”
Maybe you eat too much while watching TV or join a friend on smoke breaks even when you don’t want a cigarette. “You can develop ways to disrupt those patterns and create new ones,” Marsch says. For instance, eat meals with the TV off or join friends for healthy activities, like walk breaks.
Make a Plan
Make a plan that includes small, reasonable goals and specific actions you’ll take to move toward them.
If you stay in the toilet a lot longer than you should because of your phone or a book you’re reading, try leaving them elsewhere when you go in to take a dump or a leak. And if you walk by the vending machine at work and buy junk food every afternoon, try walking a different way to eliminate that decision, and bring healthy snacks from home.
Consider what you think you’ll need to be successful. How can you change things around you to support your goals? You might need to stock up on healthy foods, remove temptations, or find a special spot to relax.
Get friends and loved ones involved. Invite them to join you, support you, and help you stay on track.
It’s also important to plan for obstacles. Think about what might derail your best efforts to live healthier. How can you still make healthy choices during unexpected situations, in stressful times, or when tempted by old habits?
Stay on Track
Doing positive things for yourself can feel exciting and rewarding. But there will also be times when you wonder if you can stick with it.
“Identify negative thoughts and turn them into realistic, productive ones,” Marsch advises.
Keeping a record can help. You can use a paper journal, computer program, or mobile app to note things like your diet, exercise, stress levels, or sleep patterns. Track your progress closely. Sometimes when you feel like you’re failing, you can learn the most.
“The more you practice self-control, the better you become at it,”
Think About the Future
Focusing on how a change might heal your body and enhance your life can help. When you stop smoking, your risk of a heart attack drops within 24 hours. Reducing stress can lead to better relationships. Even small improvements in your nutrition and physical activity can reduce your health risks and lengthen your life.
Sometimes when you’re trying to adopt healthier habits, other health issues can get in the way.
When you’re really struggling with these behaviors, ask yourself if there’s more going on. For example, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can be tied to unhealthy behaviors.
You’re never too out of shape, too overweight, or too old to make healthy changes. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you.
Things may not go as planned, and that’s okay. Change is a process. What’s most important is to keep moving forward.
Be accountable to yourself
People work harder when they feel accountable to someone. Whether it’s a coach, mentor, friend, family member, or work buddy, having others to report to can provide that necessary push you need to get stuff done. But ultimately you are responsible for your behavior.
There is no more powerful accountability partner than yourself. Rather than relying only on others, set up a system whereby you regularly track your own progress. I track mine using the ‘Fabulous’ app. You can find it on your Apple Store or download it on your android.
Find the joy
A healthy life shouldn’t feel like a burden. If it does, then you’ll likely not stick with your new behaviors for too long.
Rather than taking some generic route to health, figure out what you can do to support a healthy life that also fits your personality, and empowers and excites you. When you design your life around things you love to do – activities that are uplifting and fun – it will stop requiring so much effort. Once you find the joy in living healthy, that’s when the lifestyle will stick.
If you want a quality life, then you have to start by quantifying what you want out of life so you can develop the healthy habits that support it. Think about it: What’s your chance of having the most optimal experience without you designing it in advance? Highly unlikely. Sure, you may get lucky, but if you want consistent quality in your life, then you have to decide what outcome you want.
Ask yourself where you are right now, and then visualize where you want to be in comparison. Because wherever you are, you can change that by creating healthy habits.
The goal is to change the emotion you tie to objects and experiences, as emotions are tied to actions, and the healthy habits we develop are based on those actions. Ask yourself what you would have to appreciate, believe, feel and focus on to achieve that.
Remember, where focus goes, energy flows.