5 Secrets for Forming Healthy Habits
Forming healthy habits is essential for reaching goals. This is a critical component in my The Master Healthy Habits Method.
Habits are like step by step instructions in a recipe to help you create a delicious dish. Each step (habit) has a specific purpose. You can’t skip one or do them out of order and expect the recipe to turn out right. That would be like baking a cake without the eggs or trying to saute vegetables before turning on the stove. Some steps have to be completed before another step can be done and they often build on each other. Sometimes, we can do some of the steps simultaneously, like sauteing onions while cutting carrots or mixing a dressing. But we can’t expect to execute all the steps at the same time. This concept is the same when reaching for wellness goals.
The number of steps recipes require also vary based on the complexity of the dish. This can be true for wellness goals, too. Some goals have many complex steps--habits--we must form in order to be successful, while others are more straight-forward.
Forming the habits necessary for reaching wellness goals can feel just as frustrating as an overly complex or poorly written recipe. When people feel overwhelmed by the steps required to reach their goals, they often give up, sometimes even before they start.
But I’m here to tell you, you can achieve the wellness you want. And the best way to be successful is to create your own recipe steps - habits - to get the life and freedom you desire.
Here are my 5 secrets for forming healthy habits:
ONE: MAKE A SPECIFIC ORDERED LIST
Writing things down is a powerful practice. This seriously won’t take long and the benefit is crucial.
Your habits must be specific. When following a recipe, directions like, “add some sugar” or “bake in a hot oven for a while” just don’t cut it. In the same way, we have to distinguish between healthy principles and habits. Eating fewer sweets and going to the gym more are guiding principles. Habits must be more specific, like workout 3 times a week or sleep 7 hours every night.
Here are examples of specific habits:
- No snacking after 8 pm.
- Workout 3x/week for 30 minutes.
- Have a healthy breakfast 5x/week.
- Prepare lunches on Sunday for the week.
- Plan dinners for the week before going to the grocery store.
- Decrease alcohol intake from 3 drinks to 1 drink on Saturday and Sunday.
- Spend 5 minutes/day in quiet time.
- Read for at least 10 minutes before going to bed.
- Turn off electronics by 9 pm.
TWO: START SMALL, THEN BUILD
Some habits may start small and over time increase in frequency or complexity as you begin to create the time for them. For example, if you ultimately want to prepare all your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at home, you might start by focusing on the lunch habit and prep 5 lunch meals on Sunday. Then, as you become more efficient and comfortable, you could progress to making your breakfasts ahead. When that becomes routine for you, add in dinner prep on Sunday.
Another example is developing the ultimate habit of exercising for 30 minutes 5 times a week. You may need to start with 10 minutes 5 times per week or 30 minutes 2 times per week and build from there as that becomes easier for you.
THREE: FOCUS ON 1-2 HABITS AT A TIME
If you tried to complete all the recipe steps simultaneously, your meal would be a disaster, and probably your kitchen, too. Instead, you gather your ingredients and cookware and start chopping. When we are forming healthy habits, focus on one or two at a time gives us better results and creates sustainability.
Start with habits that are the most challenging or impactful first. What sets you back the furthest? What is your biggest struggle? What is the one thing you keep saying you can’t let go? Or the one thing you think you can’t live without? What causes you to make other poor choices? Changing the most impactful habit first often helps you improve other areas without even planning for it. So it can be your biggest win. We only become our strongest when we work on our weakest parts. It is quite freeing and empowering to overcome what you once thought you couldn’t.
Focus on these first one or two habits for at least 4 weeks to develop sustainability, before tackling the next couple.
FOUR: PLANNING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Habits won’t become sustainable without a plan for implementing them in your schedule or in the absence of an accountability system to ensure you keep doing them. The plan needs to address any challenges for achieving your habit on a weekly or monthly basis and state how you will overcome them. It also needs to consider prep work required for success.
The accountability system is the ultimate commitment for forming healthy habits. There are several ways to accomplish accountability, but you need to pick the one you know will truly keep you on track. You can use a calendar or create a check-off sheet to fill out your days of success. Other ideas are to seek help from a friend, create or joining a fitness group, or hire a wellness coach.
FIVE: KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING
Once you have created your first couple of sustainable habits, look back at your list and work on habits 3 and 4 for the next 4 weeks. Keep forming new habits as you master each step.
If you were unsuccessful in creating a habit, don’t despair. It is possible you were missing one of these two elements:
- The Right Mindset
- The Right Accountability
Review these non-negotiables for success, and start fresh.
The right mindset is often the biggest issue. How bad do you really want to make a change? Do you really know why you want to do this? Your very deep why. Your why for doing this has to trump any desire for staying the same. Maybe you need to change your language from victim to victor and practice it.
Perhaps you didn’t have a strong enough accountability system in place. Do you need third person help, like a friend, support group, or wellness coach? When we need help improving finances, relationships, and house projects, we don’t hesitate to seek help from others. Why wouldn’t we do the same for our health?
The goal here is to make complex things simple. Take out the overwhelm. Decrease the frustration. Stop making your health negotiable.
If you would like some guidance on creating your own wellness recipe, purchase the Warrior Approach Guidebook.
I can also help you create your own 90-day program and/or provide direct accountability. Set up a 20 minute call with me to discuss how we can work together.
To your great health,