Step 1. Work out which areas of your health and wellbeing need improvement.
This first step might sound like a simple one, but it’s important to get specific on what you’re wanting to improve. For instance, while you could say “I want to eat better”, it’s easier to create a habit if you were more specific by saying “I want to eat more vegetables each day” or “I want to eat healthier snacks”.
The same goes for other areas of health. The big broad areas of health to consider are healthy eating, fitness and movement, mental wellbeing and stress, and energy/sleep. There are many subareas in each of these bigger areas, which is why specificity can really help.
Here are some more examples:
Instead of saying “ I want to get fitter”, consider saying “I want to improve my physical strength” or “I want my body to be more limber and flexible”.
Instead of saying “I want to be less stressed”, consider saying “I want to have some time to myself each day” or “I want to start using relaxation techniques each day”.
Instead of saying “I want to be less tired”, consider saying “I want to get more sleep each night” or “I want to get a better quality of sleep each night” (which while similar, are slightly different things).
In doesn’t matter which habits you chose to create, but it’s best to change only a few things at a time. That’s because when you try to completely overhaul your life all in one go, it’s easy to become overwhelmed so you’ll throw in the towel completely. Small changes to your health and wellbeing can go a long way and will add up over time.
Step 2. Come up with ideas for daily healthy habits that will help to create your desired improvements.
There are many ways to make improvements to your health, so there’s no one right way to go about creating daily healthy habits. What’s important is that you focus on WAYS THAT WILL WORK FOR YOU – this means that they will fit into your lifestyle in a way that suits your personal needs and values.
Here’s an example… if you were wanting to improve your cardiovascular fitness, you could do this using any type of physical activity that gets your body moving and your heart beating faster. First you’ll need to consider your current fitness level, the amount of time you have each day, and the types of activities you enjoy doing. If you haven’t exercised for over 6 months, you should start gently. If you have only 30 minutes spare each day, a 1 hour class at the gym isn’t going to work.
Another example… if you want to eat healthier snacks at work, you’ll first need to consider what types of healthy foods you enjoy eating, whether you have access to refrigeration at work, if you have somewhere to prepare your snacks, and how much time you have to eat.
Step 3. Work out the EASIEST way to add healthy habits to your day.
Creating daily healthy habits is hard enough as it is, so always find the easiest way to add it to your day. If you don’t have time to workout in the mornings, do it in the evenings or at lunch time. If you want to add more veggies to your day, you might find it easiest to focus on the evening meal when you have more preparation time. If you want to meditate each day, you’ll need a time when you can sit quietly without distractions. You need to figure out the time and place for each habit to make it the easiest for you.
Step 3. Work out the EASIEST way to add healthy habits to your day.
No matter which new habit you want to create, and how much you want to do it, there will always be some things that could get in your way. While there will be some commonalities in these barriers, you’ll find barriers that are unique to your lifestyle that you will need to overcome.
Here you need to be really honest with yourself. Sit down and make a list of everything that might stop you, no matter how trivial it may seem. For example, if you decided to go for an afternoon walk, your potential barriers might include the weather (too hot, raining, etc), getting stuck at work/in traffic, having to run an errand after work (pick up groceries, children, etc), being really tired at the end of the day, having sore feet, and so on. You’ll find similar lists for other habits too.
Step 5. Develop strategies to overcome each of your barriers.
Once you’ve worked out your potential barriers, you can now think of ways to overcome them. If it’s too hot to go for a walk, perhaps you could wait until it cools down or maybe there’s somewhere with lots of shade that you could walk instead. If you have to run an errand after work, perhaps you could park the car further away and walk to and from your destination, which means you’ll have done your walking before you get home. If being tired after work means you might be low in motivation, perhaps you could find someone to walk with so you can motivate each other.
Step 6. Now that you have a plan with clear strategies, you can begin to create daily healthy habits immediately.
New habits take time to create, but the best time to start is immediately. The best option is to start today, but if you don’t have everything you need (e.g. veggies or healthy snacks), or if it’s already very late in the day, then it’s okay to start tomorrow. The trick is to get yourself onto your plan while you’re still really excited about making changes to create a better and healthier you.
Step 7. Watch out for days 3 and 4 – these are the ones that will throw you.
The first day of a new habit is pretty easy to do. The second day isn’t too hard either. But you’ll normally find that it’s the third or fourth day that you start questioning whether you really have to do it or if you can have a day off. This is when your resolve comes into question and you need to try your best to push through it and do it anyway. After you get past this hurdle, it will start to become easier. It happens to everyone, so don’t beat yourself up over it when it happens to you.
This is when those strategies you made in Step 5 come in really handy because they’ll give you ways to overcome the barriers that seem too hard to deal with. As time goes on, you’ll be tested over and over again, so these strategies will keep being needed. After you’ve been consistent for a week or so, one day off here or there isn’t that bad if life gets in the way, but do your best to get back to it as quickly as you can.
Step 8. Take some time to reflect and see whether your new habits are working for you.
Sometimes what seemed like a great idea just doesn’t pan out. This could happen because there were some barriers that you couldn’t account for, or that you’re unable to change at this time. It could also be because you set your goals a little too high to begin with and need to step back and work on something else to create the foundations needed to make bigger change. For instance, you might want to start running, but your body may not have the muscular strength needed to prevent injuries.
This is why it’s really important to take some time to reflect on what you’ve achieved and see how it compares to what you were wanting to achieve. You might find that you’re mostly on track but need to make a few minor tweaks. Or you might find that you’re way off track and need to completely change your strategies. Perhaps something isn’t working with other parts of your lifestyle, or maybe you’ve gotten really bored with the changes you’ve been making and need a different approach that will keep you interested.
Step 9. If you need to make changes, go back to Steps 2-5 and refine your strategies.
Let’s look at some examples here:
You may have chosen to start exercising in the evenings, but suddenly you’re required to work some overtime during the next few weeks. In that case you may need to change to morning exercise instead.
You may have decided to take yoghurt or cheese and fresh fruit to work for healthy snacks, but suddenly don’t have access to a refrigerator. In that case you may need to take dried fruit and nuts, or healthy muffins, instead.
You may have wanted to begin your day with a meditation, but your kids have other ideas on how you should start your day, i.e. by doing things for them – sometimes it’s just easier to work around your kids. In that case you may need to meditate after the kids are in bed, when they’re at school, or when they’re doing activities that keep them really occupied.
Step 10. Get some help if you need it.
While it’s easy to know that you want to create daily healthy habits, it’s not always easy deciding which activities and strategies will best meet your health and wellbeing goals. If that’s the case, getting some help can be really valuable.
Article taken from Healthy Stories, written by Glenda Bishop