By Debra Austin~
Let’s talk about forming new habits.
We all have times in our lives when we want to change our behavior for the better. This could be eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or it could be work-related, or spiritual. There are so many areas in our lives we could improve if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but forming a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.
Follow this easy three-step process to internalize the new behavior and make it a true habit — something we do automatically, like brushing our teeth.
Decide what new habit you want to form. Be clear and as specific as possible about why you are trying to change your behavior.
Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more. Instead, say something like, “I will go for a 30-minute walk every single day.” Remind yourself each day you’re exercising to keep your body strong and so you can play with the kids or grandkids.
Deciding what your new habit will be — and committing to when and how you’re going to do it — is half the battle.
The first days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue. But after some time, you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t really want to go out to walk. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder. Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while. Find an accountability partner so the two of you can motivate and bolster each other. Even something as simple as laying out your running clothes the night before and keeping your sneakers by the door will make it a easier to go out for that run.
It takes some time for a new behavior to become a true habit. How long? Well, it depends on your mindset and on how big of a change the behavior is. Switching from regular ice cream to low-sugar frozen yogurt probably won’t take long to solidify the new habit. But giving up ice cream altogether, or cutting out all sugar, might take quite a lot longer.
Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders. Make that daily walk as part of your after-dinner routine, or change from grabbing a snack from the vending machine to packing a healthy snack at home.
Decide to create that habit. Remind yourself to keep at it. And practice the routine until it’s second nature. You’ll be well on your way to forming — and keeping — a new, healthy habit.