First we need to understand what a healthy habit is before we can start to strive for them.
A healthy habit is "a regular practice that once attained is easy to maintain and hard to give up that positively affects our health."
This could be as small as regular water drinking or stretching before bed.
It can be as big as exercising everyday or 5 times a week, or simply walking to work instead of driving.
With enough small healthy habits we can have a massive positive change on our lifestyle and stay healthy with ease.
Once we begin to combine healthy habits it becomes a positive snowball, a self-fulfilling prophecy as you change who you are physically and mentally.
So, how do we start getting these healthy habits?
How do you build your own positive snowball?
First off, we need to be aware of our current habits, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
I want you to try to list 10 things you do everyday or every week that you don't require much effort to maintain.
Things like having a wee in the morning, or brushing your teeth. Things you do every day on autopilot.
Next include some habits you're not too proud of or wish to change too, think hard about it.
This could be having a couple bags of crisps every night, or always having chocolate when you get upset.
Once we have listed our habits think about what triggers them, look for patterns and things that set off the following behaviours.
“I wake up and have a wee straight away”,
“when I sit down to watch TV after work, I have to have a few biscuits to relax”.
With a sentence like that you have defined the habit that comprises the trigger and the action.
Write them down - this is critical - the action of physically writing this list out makes it official and sinks it in to your conscious.
Once we know our habits we can start to figure out how to keep the healthy ones, and override the unhealthy ones.
So next up, we need a plan.
Once we have identified what our current habits are we then need to decide what we want them to look like in a perfect scenario.
It does not have to be a super official and heavily structured, just set reasonable goals and the actions you plan to take to move toward them.
List your perfect habits out - your perfect day in an ideal world of who you want to become.
"I want to exercise 4 days a week"
"I want to take a multivitamin every day"
"I want to do 7500 steps at least per day"
They say everyone has three versions of themselves
How they see themselves today
Who they want to become in the future
And the person in the middle trying to go from who you are to who you want to be.
Well we now have it written on paper who you are and who you want to be.
So let's now set about making the new healthy habits routine, or improving some less healthy ones so we can move you from A to B.
Lets say you always forget to take your multi-vitamin. It sits there everyday lonely waiting for some attention and you always forget to take it.
And one of your current habits was identified as
“I have a coffee every morning”,
This can become,
"I have a coffee every morning, while I wait for the kettle to boil I will take my multivitamin. I will leave it next to the kettle so it reminds me every morning".
You can attach your new habit to a time or an existing habit to make it easier to do.
This could transition into
“After my morning wee I’m going to drink a full glass of water before I get on with my day”.
Do you always shop hungry and end up buying loads of snacks?
Start shopping on a full stomach, or avoid the isles you don’t ‘need’ to go down.
You can also write a list and stick to it on each shop, not allowing for extras.
Once you have a plan you're halfway there!
Identifying where you are and where you want to be is the first crucial step.
When making healthy environments to form habits get friends and family involved in the process, let them know your plan and see if they can support you.
Nothing is harder than sticking to a healthy eating plan when family brings you a big cake or bottle of wine every weekend.
Research shows that you tend to mirror the habits of those around you, so if friends and family share similar habits it can help the process.
As well as helping you taking up healthy habits it helps others too!
A win win.
We want to try and alter our environment so the healthy choice becomes the easy one.
Have easy healthy snacks to hand, and make the unhealthy ones be ones you have to prepare or even bake.
The more steps between you and the unhealthy habit, the harder it is to fall back to it.
Now we have our habits up and running, track and refine the process as you go.
You won't nail every aspect from the get go and that's okay.
Document the journey and reflect, write down what goes well, e.g. “I managed to avoid my nightly packet of hobnobs and cut it down to 5, I put them on a plate and sat down before I ate”.
That's progress in the right direction and a win!
Write down any barrier you hit along the way, and how you plan to overcome them. E.g. “I found myself going back for more hobnobs later on and finishing the packet anyway.
I plan to only buy one packet a week now so if I overeat I have none left for the rest of the week, and i'm too lazy to go to shop for more.”
We can learn so much from the things that trip us up and we may consider failures, the more we can overcome and work around, the more robust and bulletproof our healthy habits become!
There are some great apps to help you out with habit tracking on the app store too!
They can send you reminders, track streaks and streamline the tracking process.
Streaks (works with apple watches too!)
and Habitica which 'gamifies' habit tracking if that's your cup of tea.
Top Tip: Reward your progress.
Now I don’t mean giving yourself a cake for not having a cake today, nice try though.
Pick a reward that won’t sabotage your habits.
Set a goal of 2 weeks sticking to the habit unbroken and reward yourself with a bag you’ve been wanting to buy, or something else you have wanted, maybe an experience day.
Having a reward at the end will help you stick to those habits easier, and if you can commit for a few weeks, that habit is likely to stick too.
To build the healthy habits you need to shift the Lockdown lbs and get yourself back on track, you must be patient.
You will slip up, you will even go backwards at some points, and you may have to keep going back and altering the plan slightly.
But each time you change and adapt your mindset and process, you slowly chisel away at your goals to reveal a beautiful habit at the end of it all.
Don’t expect it to be easy, or happen overnight, if it could you wouldn't be reading this.
However, it can be done, and you can do it.
Stick to the checklist below which will summarise the main points covered and use it as your checklist for success:
1. Identify existing habits
2. Clarify your goals
3. Plan the change
4. Ask for support
5. Track your progress (and reward it)