How to Build a Healthy Habit - And Keep It

By Mike McGrath

Contributor

Post Date / 09/28/2017

When the kids go back to school at the end of summer, many parents finally have time to think about their health after the hectic days of summer vacation. Now’s the time to start building some healthy habits so that, come next summer, those habits are part of your daily life—something you do without thinking about it.

Starting a healthy habit is easy—it’s sticking with your end-of-summer health goal that presents some challenges. Here are a few suggestions for turning your back-to-school goals into regular parts of your daily or weekly routine.

Start with a Baseline

If you’re making healthy changes to your lifestyle, you probably have a reason. Maybe you want to lose weight, reduce your blood pressure, or improve your overall fitness. No matter what your motivation, you need to be able to track whether your new habit is having some type of effect, and to do that you need a baseline.

Depending on your goal, your baseline could be as uncomplicated as recording your weight before you start your new habit, or maintaining a month-long food log to gain an understanding of your existing eating habits. Having something to compare your progress will make it easier to determine if your back-to-school habit is having any effect.

Start with Simple Goals

People often confuse goals with habits. “Losing weight” is a goal, but it doesn’t provide an action you can turn into a habit.

Instead, start with a very specific action, such as drinking three glasses of water a day, running for ten minutes, or upping your vegetable intake by having a glass of water and Kiwami Greens every morning.

Build on Your Success

The internet is fond of reporting that it takes twenty-one days to make an action a habit, but researchers suggest the process is bit more complex. You can turn a simple act into a habit in as little as twenty days, but more involved actions can take sixty days or longer to become automatic. Start small, master one habit, and then add another small, healthy habit to your routine. Once you turn drinking a daily dose of Kiwami Greens into a habit, then add in having a piece of fruit with lunch. When this becomes habit add an extra vegetable to your evening meal. Small, progressive steps will last longer than trying to change your entire lifestyle at once.

Faltering is Not Failure

When you choose a healthy act you want to turn into a habit, your initial motivation is likely to be high. Motivation levels fluctuate with time, however, and as you work towards your new habit there will be days when you don’t follow through.

When this happens, don’t beat yourself up over your “failure.” You haven’t failed, you just had a setback. Take such times as an opportunity to identify why you faltered, so you can anticipate and prevent such problems in the future. You’ll be better prepared the next time you find your motivation slipping, and less likely to stumble.

On the other hand, reward yourself for sticking to healthy habits. If you went a month exercising for ten minutes five days a week, treat yourself to a little something—a new ringtone, a movie rental, or anything else that brings you joy. After all, you’re building healthy habits to feel better mentally and physically, and success should be celebrated!

Sources

Jeremy Dean “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick”

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