A healthy lifestyle requires commitment, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be a constant white-knuckle ride of sacrifice and denial! Read on for 5 important life hacks to help you build healthy habits!
Habits are choices we make at some point, then stop thinking about but continue to do regularly. It’s often the ‘bad’ habits, those we want to jettison, that are top of mind. Yet building ‘good’ and healthy habits is essential to help us lead our best life.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”Jim Rohn
When a habit forms, our brain stops participating fully in decision-making. It diverts focus to other tasks. Choose habits that support healthy behaviours, and eventually they will become automatic.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change discusses how to replace an unwanted habit with a new, desirable one. He cites the ‘cue – routine – reward’ loop that underlies each habit – bad and good! A certain cue (for example a location, time of day, emotional state, or person) consistently triggers a particular routine. This routine delivers a reward. I’ve seen this in action with ‘Wordle‘, a short word puzzle I do every day on my phone and the pattern is consistent. I sit down for breakfast [cue], attempt the puzzle [routine] and hopefully solve it [reward]. I found it remarkably easy to form this habit and I’m not alone!
Ready to transform some of your habits? Here are 5 Important Life Hacks to Build Healthy Habits:
1. Learn from your good habits!
Bring to mind one habit you stick to consistently and that serves you well. Maybe you attend a regular weekly fitness class or always cook from scratch on Wednesdays. Write it down. Now get curious. What patterns do you spot?
- Can you identify the cue(s) that supports this habit? What conditions do you create? What happens just before you do it?
- Describe the routine. Is it always the same?
- Finally, how does it serve you? The chances are it fits in some way with your goals and is aligned to your personal values.
It’s important to acknowledge your already successful routines and habits. There could be patterns you can replicate.
2. Pick one new habit and start small
When it comes to choosing new habits, there is way too much advice out there about how to take care of ourselves! From what we eat to how we exercise, we can find myriad activities we ‘should’ be incorporating into our day – whilst of course ensuring we get the requisite amount of sleep! It can be overwhelming to try and fit in new routines, especially if they compete for the same time slot!
A current focus for me is to establish a sustainable personal yoga practice. My participation in a yoga teacher training programme means my studies often get in the way of ‘my’ yoga. The Movement for Modern Life 21 Days of Morning Yoga course is based on concepts shared by James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits. The principles are to show up, start small for a few minutes, and build up from there. Sounds simple, and that’s because it is! Research shows that just 4 minutes can help us build healthy habits.
3. Set the new habit up with repeatable cues
An activity I have been doing for years is journaling – ‘morning pages’ as advocated by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artists Way. Every day, first thing, three pages of handwriting, and an unceremonious dump of all the clutter in my brain! It helps me listen to myself, my deep truth, and it creates clarity. It also gets the ‘moans and groans’ out of my system and clears the way for more useful creative thoughts and ideas. The rewards are precious to me and the routine non-negotiable.
To build this habit I experimented with various cues. I settled on first thing in the morning, after I have made my hot water and lemon and before I even feed the cats. I sit down at the desk in my den and use the same colour pen every day. The routine is an important part to building this new healthy habit. I adjust it when I’m travelling, but there is always a repetitive nature to it.
I highly recommend Ash Bond’s classes on Journaling if you want to try it out.
4. Keep your habits fresh
Injecting variety can help us to keep habits fresh and maintain them consistently. When I go Nordic walking, I like to follow different routes. Even a familiar route in reverse changes it up. If you are routinely drawn to stronger yoga practices such as this power yoga flow with Katarina Rayburn, how about mixing it up with a more sedate slow flow for discipline with Adam Hocke?
How might you build in variety to keep your habit fresh and sustainable?
5. Buddy up
Involving others in your habits is a great way to stay accountable. Contrarily, some of us find it all too easy to let ourselves down, but we’ll show up when there are others involved!
Would you like a MFML accountability buddy for the month? Keep an eye on the weekly newsletter to find out more and sign up! Message your buddy before and after the online classes. Check in with them. How did they find it? Are their glutes as sore as yours the next morning?
Thinking of writing a daily gratitude list? How about swapping yours with a trusted friend or an accountability buddy? There’s no need to comment on it or give feedback of any kind. The act of sharing it encourages you to be accountable to each other.
What habit will you create that would benefit from the company of others?
“Drop by drop is the water pot filled”The Buddha
A researcher at Duke University found that over 40% of actions performed each day were not actually decisions, but habits. How will you choose to fill your water pot?
Author: Helen Krag. Helen is a health and wellness enthusiast; observer of human behavioural change; yoga teacher trainee; passionate traveller; and lover of the outdoors.