Building healthy habits takes a little work before they stick for a lifetime. Here are 6 strategies that make building healthy habits easier and more effective!
One of the most important parts of building healthy lifestyle habits is creating CONSISTENCY. When we consistently eat nourishing, healthy foods, exercise, and practice mental health care, we see results.
Whether the results you’re seeking are physical, emotional, or mental, consistency is KEY. When we build healthy habits, we must practice them on a regular basis in order for change to happen.
Whatever your health and wellness goals may be, behavior change is the result of forming new habits and breaking old ones that no longer serve you. Here are 6 strategies to use to build healthy habits that actually stick, so you can reach and sustain your goals.
6 strategies to build healthy habits
Start small with 1-2 habits.
You may be super excited to start working towards your health goals, and that is great! In order to build healthy habits that stick, it’s helpful to start small and master 1-2 habits to begin with.
Here’s a helpful analogy – if you’re training for a marathon, you don’t begin your training with a 20 mile run. Instead, you start at your current training level, and build from there! Otherwise, you risk burnout, injury, and overwhelm. Slow and steady really does win the race when it comes to building healthy habits.
If your goal is to eat entirely plant-based, start by eliminating animal products from your diet 2 days a week. Then once you’ve mastered that, eliminate animal products from your diet for 4 days. Build from there until you reach your goal.
Make SMART goals.
Any goals are admirable, so make your goals SMART goals to increase the chances you’ll achieve them.
What’s a SMART goal? SMART goals are:
Here’s an example of a goal, and the same goal written in SMART goal terms:
Regular goal: I want to eat more vegetables.
SMART goal: I will include an additional cup of vegetables with my lunch every day next week.
Do you see the difference? The SMART goal lays out the terms for you, and sets you up for success much more than the regular goal.
Make a plan.
Perhaps the simplest of these strategies, making a plan is one of the most important! A plan solidifies HOW you will achieve your goals by breaking them down into actionable steps.
Just like you’d make a plan for your day, break down your goals into planned steps. If your goal is to eat a healthy breakfast before your busy workday, there are a few steps to make this into a plan:
Decide what healthy breakfast you want to make.
Shop for breakfast ingredients.
Prepare the breakfast to your liking.
Sit down for 15 minutes to eat your breakfast.
Add all the steps of your plan into your schedule, and treat them like any other appointment.
Think about the long term.
When making healthy behavior changes, think about WHY you want to make these changes. It’s helpful to envision your long term situation when doing so.
For example, in the short term, you may want to lose weight to fit into a certain dress for a wedding you’re attending in a few months. But does your weight loss goal fit into your long term vision?
It’s true for some that weight loss leads to increased energy and decreased risk of chronic disease. When you add these positive, longer term benefits to your WHY, it makes your healthy habits more meaningful and important to stick with.
Understand intrinsic motivators versus extrinsic motivators.
There are two types of motivators you need to be aware of with health and wellness goals – intrinsic and extrinsic. Both types drive our behaviors and are responsible for why we do what we do.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It refers to things we do because they are personally rewarding. We don’t need or expect any external reward or validation from these behaviors.
Extrinsic motivation makes us engage in a behavior to achieve some type of external reward (or avoid a punishment).
When changing behaviors and forming new habits, ask yourself what is motivating you to do so. Let’s take running for example.
If you are a runner, do you run because you enjoy it? Does it clear your mind and provide mental health benefits? Then your drive to run is intrinsically motivated.
But what if you run because you want to lose weight? Or you run to avoid gaining weight? Then, you are likely running with extrinsic motivation, with weight loss as an external reward for running.
Intrinsically motivated behaviors are easier to maintain in the long term, because we truly enjoy them, and don’t expect an external reward for doing them. We’re more likely to continue running throughout our life when we truly enjoy it. If you are running because you want to lose weight, you’re likely to quit running once your weight loss plateaus.
Choose healthy habits that you actually enjoy and come naturally to you, and they will stick around for the long term!
Hold yourself accountable.
When it comes to building healthy habits for yourself, nobody else can do it for you! It’s important to hold yourself accountable to your goals. You are your biggest cheerleader!
Here are some ways to help hold yourself accountable when forming new healthy habits:
Write things down. It’s pretty amazing how things become even more REAL when we write them down. Start by writing down your SMART goals and plans, so you see them come alive on paper.
Reflect on your progress. As you begin to see changes as you achieve your goals, take time to reflect back. Is what you are doing sustainable? If not, what will make it easier? If things are going well, continue with what you are doing!
Reward yourself for achieving goals. Be proud of reaching milestones and crushing your goals! Treat yourself to a nice dinner out, a manicure, a new workout outfit, a mental health day off from work, or whatever makes you feel the self love.
Ask for help when you need it. Asking for help is not a form of failure. When you need help, asking for it is essential, and might make or break whether or not you will achieve your goals.