New Year, new you, right? Well, maybe not just yet but it could be if you take the right steps to ingrain healthy habits long term.
How many times do we hear about putting plans in place for the new year? Creating new goals? Kickstarting a healthy eating plan? Veganuary? Dry January? All of these great initiatives to help us live healthier and happier lives. Hats off to anyone who has started this year that way and is sticking to their new healthy habits. Honestly, it’s brilliant if you have.
I do have a slight issue with Dry January, for example. Especially when I hear people saying how much alcohol they’re going to drink before or after it – as if they’re using Dry January as an excuse to overdo it and not worry about the consequences. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect and definitely overdo it sometimes, but I believe it’s better to have a more consistent approach and target a healthy lifestyle for more than one month of the year.
Hear me out.
I certainly believe in a starting point, so let’s say that’s January 1. Your goal is to become healthier this year. Yes, start with Dry January, Veganuary, a new exercise regime etc. – but ONLY if you know you can treat it as a small step change and you’re not trying to do too much all at once.
Neuroscientists argue that we form habits through repetition. The more we do something, the more our brain rewires to continue to do that thing. We also know that when we do something and we receive a ‘reward’ for that behaviour, we are more likely to repeat that behaviour. It’s all about consistency.
Let’s consider the rewards for dry January. You’re likely to get more and better-quality sleep. You’ll feel more energised each day and should be happier and more productive. You’re also likely to lose weight. These are all rewards you will receive throughout the month.
Now imagine, if you were able to consistently have better sleep, feel really energised, be more productive and feel lighter throughout the whole year.
You might be less inclined to want to go completely teetotal for the whole year but what healthy habits could you put in place that would help you to continue to receive these rewards more frequently? Could you try 3 months? What about every other weekend?
Here are some tips for how to create and sustain new healthy habits:
- Consistency is key. Make some rules about what you’re trying to achieve to help remain on track.
- Start with small, incremental steps. If a whole month seems too hard, why not start with each week at a time.
- Identify your rewards. Take a note of how you’re feeling, what you’re gaining from the new habit. It might be worth noting your vitals – weight, BMI, resting heart rate, hip and weight measurements also taking a note of how you’re sleeping and any changes you notice.
- Find support. It’s no good if you are trying to create a new habit and the people around you aren’t supportive of your choices. Share your healthy habit goals with someone who you feel could really support you to achieve those goals. Even better to share with more people so ALL family & friends help by, for example, not opening a bottle of wine in front of you? Or by not sending you alcohol or pastries as gifts
- Be kind to yourself. Some days are just a bit crap. You might ‘break a rule’ or miss a class but don’t let that be the end. Just start again the next day. You’re allowed to have rest days, don’t judge yourself for it. Remember how good those rewards are – and if you’ve written how differently you started to feel when you first started your new healthy habits have a read & remind yourself how good it feels to continue with it.
This year hasn’t quite started how many of us hoped it would, so I wouldn’t blame you if you put a new healthy habit on hold, but why not start today?
If you feel like you want some help creating healthy habits, get in touch with our Wellbeing Coach, email@example.com.