How Habits Can Transform Your Life

Healthy habits can transform your life and impact your health and overall wellness.

Envision what you want your future to look like and then take small steps every day toward achieving those goals. Your habits and routines are the stepping-stones.

Some facts about habits:

  • People revert to old habits, whether good or bad, during times of stress.
  • Old habits hold you back and can affect productivity and life satisfaction.
  • “Bad’ habits contribute to anxiety, stress, and diminished quality of life.
  • Healthy habits support your goals, give you a sense of purpose, and can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.

What is a habit?

A habit is automatic behavior and routines formed through repetition and commitment. When you repeatedly do something, that act imprints on your brain. Sometimes people develop habits simply because they started to do something a certain way and continued to do so without any further thought. It takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.1   

Why is it hard to break a habit?

Your body doesn’t know the difference between a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ habit, but it does know which behavior makes you feel good. When you do something repeatedly that triggers the reward center of the brain, your body is going to want to subconsciously continue that behavior. This is why it’s hard to break a bad habit. Instead, try to replace a habit that doesn’t serve you with a different one.

According to research by Duke University over 40% of the actions that people perform each day are habits, not decisions.

9 strategies to create habits to transform your life:

1) Identify your triggers.

What is the nature of the habit you want to change? It’s important to figure out what automatically triggers certain behavior. What sets you off? Certain activities, mood, fear, stress, laziness, peer pressure? Explore the root of undesirable behavior so that you can develop strategies to overcome obstacles and counteract them.

2) Focus on changing or developing one habit at a time.

Consider the circumstances and the environment in which you usually perform the habit you want to change. How can you create an environment where new behavioral change will be successful? What new routines can you embrace?

3) Understand the reason why you want to develop this habit.

You will not succeed at forming a new habit if you can’t stand 100% behind why you want to develop the habit in the first place. What will you get out of it? Be sure you want to change your behavior for yourself, not to please someone else.

4) Visualize how changing this habit will enhance your life.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this goal realistic and attainable?
  • What will your life look like once you reach your goal?
  • How will this make you feel?
  • How will your life improve?
  • What can you do this week to get started?

Write down your answers, feelings, and impressions. Refer to them when you need the motivation to keep moving forward.

5) Let go of perfection.

Good is good enough. Don’t let insecurities and excuses hold you back.

6) Create a plan.
  • Break down your goal into small actionable daily commitments.
  • Think of your to-do list in terms of how it will help you achieve your goal.
  • Decide how much time and which days you will spend working on achieving your new habit.
  • Write your daily tasks on your calendar.
  • Pick a day to start and remember that small daily wins will help you gain momentum.
  • Set yourself up for success. What do you need to get started? Here are some examples:
  1. *Exercise- Do you need equipment or sneakers? A babysitter to free up your time? Where will you work out?
  2. *Diet- What will you eat? Have you cleaned out your pantry and stocked up on the foods you want to implement? Will you do food prep? Will you add supplements? Which ones? Do you have the supplies needed?
  3. *Get organized- How will you do this? Do you have files, folders, a scanner?
 7) Hold yourself accountable.

Tell family and friends what you plan to do. When others know of your intentions it’s motivating and harder to quit. Write your goal in your daily planner. Log your progress on your smartphone. Post about it on social media.

8) Reward Yourself.  

Science suggests that part of forming new habits is experiencing the hits of dopamine and serotonin that come from the satisfaction of reaching daily goals. Your body is hardwired to want to feel good. Rewards are motivating.

9) Get started. 

Your tools are in place. Behavioral change is within your control. Work on becoming more aware of how your routines and lifestyle choices affect your wellness and your long-range goals. Start building habits that will improve and support your well-being. Creating healthy habits will positively influence your long-term health and your life. Make the commitment to yourself and just go for it!

Be patient with yourself. It took time to form old habits and it will take time to create new ones. 

  1. What new habit would transform your life?
  2. What is one actionable step you will take today to get started?

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1   Lally P, van Jaarsveld C, Potts H, Wardle J, “ How Are Habits Formed: Modelling Habit Formation in the Real World,” Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., Vol 40, Issue 6, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1099-0992http://dx.doi/10.1002/ejsp.6, p 998-1009, 2010.

 

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