Happy New Year! In the spirit of the New Year I have put together some of my tips and tricks to help you be successful at making changes towards a healthier lifestyle. I want to start with my list of healthy foundations to begin the discussion on habit formation.
It can be daunting to think about all the things we should be doing to be healthy. Most people already have plenty of responsibilities - work, cleaning, paying bills, etc. Who has the time to fit it all in? This year's top 10 New Year’s resolutions includes improvement in areas strongly matching these healthy foundations. So, you probably are not alone when it comes to struggling in one or some of these lifestyle area. The top resolutions list includes eating healthier, exercising more, saving money, and spending more time with family and friends (list by Statista). Personal and clinical experience has shown me that the majority of people want to be healthier, but haven’t managed to meet their own goals.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all these healthy habits were part of your everyday routine so that you didn’t have to think about it? That is the ultimate goal of forming healthy habits. A habit is an action that is triggered automatically in response to a situation (1). For example, in the situation that you use the restroom, the next action you take is to wash your hands. At least I hope it is. Typically you don’t have to try hard to remember to wash your hands, you just do it. Therefore, you have the habit of washing your hands after using the bathroom. Healthy habits are a great way to create a lifestyle change for the better. So let's delve into the researched tips and tricks to forming healthy habits.
Planing your new Habit
Third Step: Do your action everyday! Once you start to do this daily, it should become easier until it becomes routine. Forming a habit can take an average of 10 weeks, but this greatly varies by individual. One study found that participants formed habits between 18-254 days (2). At first it can be challenging to remember to perform your action. You may need to set an alarm on your phone, have a written reminder, get an app that helps you track, etc. It gets easier over time until one day you’ll wake up, sit up, and reach for the water glass without thinking about it.
Fourth Step: When the action occurs without you having to think about it, congratulations! You have formed a habit.
Tips for selecting your goals/ habits
When you are selecting an action to incorporate into your daily routine, consider the following:
Beyond Habit formation
While habits are ideal, another powerful way to improve health is to make your surroundings themselves facilitate a healthier choice (5).
Healthy Habit Recap
A healthcare provider can help you select an appropriate goal and healthy habit if you are struggling and hoping for more guidance. Comment below with what has worked best for you in establishing and maintaining health habits!
I wish you well on the road towards establishing a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Cheatum and Dr. Doize are Naturopathic doctors writing about health topics from a holistic viewpoint.