My Top 5 Tips for Building Healthy Habits
People frequently think about ‘being healthy’, without paying much detail to the specific actions that they are taking (or not) to take care of themselves.
Would you describe yourself as a healthy person?
You might say ‘I go to the gym’ but how many times have you been in the last month?
You might think you get enough fruit and veg into your diet each day, but how many portions a day did you average over the last few weeks?
Did you ever think about the extent to which you are tired, whether your hormones are balance, the amount of water you drink, and so on?
In our hectic lives, we often overlook our wellbeing because dealing with it can be complicated and time-consuming. You owe it to yourself to stop putting up with the symptoms of ill health. Some of the symptoms you experience will need a longer and more specific plan to get meaningful results. Other little niggles can improve just by making some small but effective changes.
A great many people really want to improve an aspect of their health, like losing weight, clearing up their skin, reducing troublesome digestive symptoms. And, while they might have the knowledge of what to do, they don’t consistently do it.
Worse still, they actually sabotage their own progress. If you see something of yourself here, read on…
Have you ever heard that little voice in your head that tells you that you deserve a treat? I mean, you’ve just hiked five miles! Surely, it’s okay to celebrate with a cup of tea and a slice of ‘Death by Chocolate’?
Have you ever spent January virtually living in the gym, only to find yourself slumped on the sofa, clutching the remote, come February?
Maybe you said: “Enough is enough”, dived headfirst into Magic Cleaning, but have been navigating around that pile of clothing in the middle of your bedroom ever since that fateful day?
Let’s take a closer look at the top five reasons why it is that we know exactly what to do but are just not doing it – and, of course, the fixes you can use to get what it is that you want with more flow, ease and consistency.
Did your doctor tell you that you need to lose weight to get your blood pressure down? Did your boss send you on a management course, so you can lead a team and advance your career? Did your kids advise you to go vegan to save the planet?
That’s excellent advice and following it would be to your advantage, but weight loss, studying or going vegan doesn’t always come easy. Unless you decide that that is what you want, it’ll be tough to get yourself motivated and sustain momentum.
The fix: Making it your idea
Not everything other people think would be good for us really is. If, for example, your partner recommends cosmetic surgery because that would make him love you more, that is not a goal you will consider (I hope).
However, if your doctor is concerned about your blood pressure and advises you to lose weight, it’s a different matter.
Of course, it makes complete sense, and you have a go but falter after just two weeks because weight loss can be really hard sometimes. Health should be motivation enough to hang in there, but let’s face it, for many people, it just isn’t.
But what if you could come up with a reason for weight loss that inspires YOU?
Sit down with a pen and paper and list all the advantages of losing weight that you can think of. Then take another look at your list and see whether you can see anything there that would motivate you MORE than optimum blood pressure.
Everyone has a personal value system, which developed over the course of their lives and depends on their experiences, our circumstances, and their family’s values.
While one person may attach great importance to material wealth and money, other may not consider it important at all. If you are not entirely behind the ‘cause’, you may struggle to keep going.
The fix: Get clear about your values
Examples of values are family, loyalty, honesty, compassion, health, freedom etc. Let’s take a look at that in a little more depth.
Having aspirations is a wonderful thing. We should all strive to better ourselves and realise our dreams. However, you need to keep our feet on the ground. If you set yourself the goal to learn how to play the saxophone with the aim of joining a jazz band, touring New York clubs and by next year, you may be overstretching yourself a bit – and that can be the exact opposite of empowering.
Although you may be a great talent, it is doubtful that you’d meet that goal, and realising that at some stage may put you off playing the saxophone altogether. Which would be a shame.
The fix: Set SMART goals
Research shows you are 80% more likely to achieve your goals if you:
What are SMARTER goals?
SPECIFIC - “Lose weight” or “get fit” is not specific. “Lose a stone” or “Run 5k” is.
MEASURABLE – weight, waist circumference, minutes run, number of steps …
ACHIEVABLE – see #5
REALISTIC – see #4
TIME-BOUND – A goal (or intermediate goals) should have a deadline
EXCITING - find a motivation that works for you, see #1
Say you’d like to run the London Marathon next year to get healthy and raise money for your favourite charity at the same time. Excellent idea! Oh, you don’t currently run and never have? Ah …
In that case, your goal may be a little too big. While running a marathon one day is absolutely within your capabilities, next year may be too soon. Signing up and committing may cause you to feel overwhelmed and give up.
The fix: Break it down to baby steps
The thought of running a marathon, sewing a ballgown or giving a 90-minute lecture in front of an academic audiences a little daunting – unless you’re already a runner, seamstress or public speaker.
Intermediate goals – aka ‘baby steps’– can help. They, too, should be SMARTER (see above), and then they’ll help you approach the big goal step by step. For example, you could:
Similarly, try sewing a sofa cushion (skirt, dress, trousers, baby grow, ballgown) or seek opportunities to speak in front of a friendly audience for 1 minute (5 minutes, 15 minutes and so on - there are workshops, clubs and networking groups that allow you to practice).
Giving up too soon is one of the most common reasons you might not achieve the goals you have set yourself. Of course, it makes no sense to strive for a goal that is doomed to failure. You’re not going to jive like a pro at your company’s Christmas ball if your first dance lesson is tomorrow.
But you CAN learn how to jive, even to competition level, just not overnight. Some things take time, and even things that look easy – say, meditation – take practice. Sadly, many of us lose sight of the goal at the slightest resistance or even when success does not materialise at the expected time.
The fix: Accountability
There are very few people who just decide that they want to do something and then go off and do it. Most of us need some sort of accountability to keep us going, especially if achieving the goal may take some time, and long-term commitment is required.
Some people make a public announcement, e.g. post on social media that they are going to quit smoking or training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Others tell a friend or find a buddy.
American writer Gretchen Rubin likes to tell the story where two gym buddies exchanged a trainer after every gym session. That way, they knew that their friend wouldn’t be able to train without them and felt obliged to show up every time. Genius!
A great way to create accountability for yourself is by working with a coach. Your coach will support you week by week and gently hold you accountable for actions so that you achieve what you want and more.
Does this resonate with you? Every day in clinic I help my clients to think clearly as to how they can achieve their health goals. As well as using nutrition and lifestyle evidence to design a plan, I help them define what they really want to achieve – and how they can get there. Plus, I give them accountability along the way. Would you like to know more? Why not book in a free 30 minute health review by clicking here. I'd love to help you.
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