Stop screwing yourself over in your habit formation efforts by trying to form five new healthy habits at the same time. Obviously, we mean this in the most caring and supportive way possible.
But, to put it bluntly, that’s not realistic.
If you’ve tried new things and “just can’t seem to do it,” ask yourself how many other new things you were trying to incorporate at the same time.
When it comes to creating healthy habits, you have to make it ridiculously easy for yourself if you want them to stick.
Think, getting your 3-year-old to eat their veggies by mixing them into the pizza casserole easy. Get creative with yourself and make it fun.
If that sounds a bit vague, we have seven steps for you to create healthy habits. Once you start following these, you’ll find that it’s much easier to develop healthy habits that stick and support your fitness goals.
What Is a Healthy Habit?
Before we tell you how to create a healthy habit, we have to go over the difference between a habit and a routine.
A habit is something that is an automatic action that requires little to no thought.
Think: turning on the light switch even though you know the electricity is off.
Habits are not easily influenced by stress, motivation, intentions, or goal setting.
A routine is something that requires cognitive effort. You have to remember to do it.
Think: watering your plants daily.
A new practice has to be a routine before it can become a healthy habit.
For example, you have to get into a routine of going to the gym three times a week before it becomes something you just do without having to motivate yourself.
How to Create a Healthy Habit
Now that you know you have to have a healthy routine before you can create a healthy habit, you know that it’s not going to happen overnight.
We have some tips for you that we use with our clients to help them create healthy habits that stick. As mentioned above, the key is to make it as easy as possible for yourself to adhere to the habit.
Pick One Habit
If you try to do too many things at once, you will get overwhelmed and won’t stick to any of your new habits.
Consider what habit you want to create and pick one thing. Just one. That’s your limit.
When you focus on one healthy habit at a time, you can dedicate your time and energy to that habit. Sticking to a single habit can help you to establish the habit more quickly and effectively rather than spreading yourself too thin across multiple habits and ultimately not achieving any of them.
The other reason you’ll want to stick to just one habit at a time is sustainability. By focusing on one habit at a time, you can build the foundation for sustainable change rather than trying to change everything at once and quickly burning out.
You’ll also create momentum with one healthy habit, which can help to inspire and motivate you to tackle other healthy habits in the future (because you’re more likely to succeed).
Starting with one small habit can create a ripple effect of positive change in your life.
Keep Your Healthy Habit Simple
Break this new habit down. Make it realistic and keep it as easy to accomplish as humanly possible.
Don’t look at Betty to see what she’s doing. It doesn’t matter what she’s doing because she isn’t you.
Your healthy habit can literally be, “I choose water before coffee in the morning.”
When a healthy habit is simple and easy to do, you are more likely to actually do it. This can help to remove barriers and make healthy behaviors more accessible.
Keeping your habits simple can also reduce decision fatigue, which is the mental exhaustion that comes from making too many decisions in a day. By reducing decision fatigue, you can free up mental energy for other important tasks.
Starting with a small and simple habit can build the foundation for bigger changes over time.
Pair Your Healthy Habits
Pair the healthy habit you’re trying to implement with another habit you already have in place.
Do you brew your coffee in the morning without thinking about it?
Perfect! Put a drinking glass beside the coffee maker and drink the water while your coffee is brewing.
We suggest pairing habits because pairing a new habit with an existing habit can help you establish consistency and routine. When you link a new habit to an existing one, you are more likely to remember to do it and to do it consistently.
Over time, pairing habits can help make the new habit an automatic part of your routine rather than something you have to consciously remember to do. Meaning it actually becomes a habit.
Imagine Creating Your Healthy Habit
Imagine yourself creating this new habit successfully.
How will it play out each day?
How does this outcome make you feel about your abilities?
You’ve probably heard that pro athletes visualize winning a game, and we do know from research that visualization can be helpful.
But if you really want to take advantage of visualization when it comes to goal achievement, then you’ll want to check out mental contrasting instead (aka the best version of visualization).
It can also help you identify potential obstacles and develop strategies for overcoming them. This can help to increase resilience and persistence when you’re faced with challenges like going on vacation or to a party.
Having a game plan for these situations makes it much more likely for you to stick to your healthy habits.
Pinpoint Your Obstacles
This brings us to the point of realizing what is most likely to make you skip your new habit.
When you’re visualizing, you should visualize potential roadblocks and determine what you can do to prevent or overcome them.
Identifying potential obstacles can help you prepare for challenges and setbacks. When you anticipate obstacles, you can develop strategies to overcome them and stay on track with your healthy habit.
And when you overcome these obstacles that you’ve visualized, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and progress toward your goal, motivating you further.
This is all part of a scientifically validated strategy called mental contrasting — check out our full article on that here!
Stay Consistent With Your Habits
You need to stay consistent to establish a healthy habit, but that doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.
At KJO Coaching, we recommend that our clients aim for 80% consistency, and when they do, they’re likely to be successful.
If you miss doing the new habit one time, that doesn’t mean you failed.
You just need to do your habit more often than not.
So, if you’re aiming to drink water before coffee and one day you drink the coffee first, that’s not a big deal. Just make sure that you reach for the water first the other 5 or 6 days of the week.
Aiming for 80% consistency is more realistic than 100% consistency — and it still does the job! Perfection is difficult and unsustainable, and setting unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment and discouragement.
It also leaves room for grace and flexibility and allows you to make mistakes without feeling like you’ve failed.
Developing sustainable habits over the long term is more important than short-term perfection because short-term perfection leads to the yo-yo effect you may be all too familiar with.
Practice Your Healthy Habit
You have to get really good at something for it to truly become a habit.
Practice your new healthy habit for a few weeks before adding another one to your routine. The more you see yourself succeed at the little new things you add, the more self-efficacy you’ll feel.
By practicing your new healthy habits, you can also inadvertently break old, unhealthy habits by replacing them with healthier alternatives to improve your overall health and well-being.
Start Creating Healthy Habits
Don’t overcomplicate this.
If you’re serious about developing some new healthy habits, keep it as simple and easy for yourself as possible.
By trying to do too much too quickly, you’re self-sabotaging and setting yourself up for failure.
If that’s something you’ve experienced, you might benefit from our FREE self-sabotage workshop.
This five-day workshop gives you short, daily trainings and exercises to finally learn the “why” behind your cravings, all-or-nothing thinking, and other psychological barriers that keep getting in the way of your health.
Click here to gain access and start making real progress toward your health and fitness goals.
You might also find it helpful to work with a fitness coach who can help you create healthy habits and keep you accountable along your journey.
Our team of coaches works with busy, high-achievers like you who are ready to make a change in their lives but need some extra support, structure, and accountability. We use our extensive experience and knowledge to create a highly personalized experience that will help you achieve your fitness goals for life.
Click here to learn more about working with us.
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