How to form a new healthy habit
Updated: May 18
Whether we are actively trying or not, most of us have a goal or two in the back of our head - be a size 12, get fit, give up smoking, take up yoga....but why is it that we rarely seem to achieve these goals?
Generally we are habit forming creatures that like routines and comforts.
If we set a new goal / aim it is more often than not going to involve something we don't do regularly, something that takes us out of our comfort zone and routines / habits i.e going to the gym 3 x week.
The key to a healthy lifestyle and achieving your goal is developing good habits to get you there - making those healthy choices and behaviours into habits so we dont have to try as hard.
A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.
So how do you turn your goals into habits?
Behaviours - first you need to make sure that your goals are behavioural goals and not outcome goals. A behavioural goal is something you want to do ie go to the gym 3 times a week is a behaviour rather than lose a stone is an outcome. To turn any resolution into a habit it needs to be a behaviour to start with, so if you have set an outcome goal think about the behaviours required to achieve that goal.
Without breaking your goal down into behaviours you will never know what is required to achieve that goal, have no accountability or direction.
Achievable - are those behaviours achievable? Think about your lifestyle now, how far away from that behaviour are you currently. The smaller the jump the more likely you are to achieve. Does your behaviour need breaking down? maybe set going to the gym twice a week consistently rather than 4 or 5 inconsistently. You can always increase those behaviours later once you have formed a habit
Repetition - by repeating the behaviour over and over again a habit can be formed. You are best to have some form of log so you have accountability of the behaviour especially when you are first starting to form a new habit.
Sounds simple hey? Its not quite as simple as it sounds.
How often have you been on a diet and done great for a few weeks and then fell off it big time? Why did those good behaviours not become good habits? Probably because you had taken too much on. The less is more approach is best for long term results.
Power of Less Rule - it has been said that the only way to form long lasting habits in any part of our lives (not just nutrition and exercise) is by applying the Power of Less rule. The more behavioural changes you make the less likely to succeed at any of them. Dont take on too much!
It is said that most of us will struggle to form ore than 1 habit at a time.
And we wonder why our complete overhaul of our life doesn't stick!
Time Rule - the amount of time needed to turn a behaviour into a habit depends on the frequency, the person, and how far away from the habit you currently are.
For example, if your behaviour is to do 5 squats ten times a day, with this frequency it is likely to become habit quicker than if your behaviour was to run 5k once a fortnight which may take a few months to become more of a habit. With behaviours that are daily or a couple of times a week, a good amount of time to allow for habit forming is generally a month or sometimes two, but it must be consistent to form a habit.
Habit Forming & Results
People vary when it comes to habit forming, some will only be able to form one habit at a time, others may be able to form more, but generally speaking the less you take on the more likely the success.
However, the problem for most when adopting, the one habit at a time rule, is that you may not see as instant results as a quick fix diet but the results will continue and be consistent and a lot better medium to long term if habits are formed. You also wont be going through this again next year!
There is nothing wrong with starting afresh with lots of positive behaviours and a whole new plan but make sure that you are aware that you cannot keep up all the good behaviours long term without turning them into habits.
The best approach in these circumstance is to set a list of behaviours or rules to follow to get results but select 1-3 (depending on you) behaviours / rules to concentrate on with the aim of forming a habit. This way you are getting some results you can actually see whilst forming new good habits for long term that will prevent the on / off / on / off plan.
Try selecting a nutrition, a activity and a lifestyle based habit each month to conquer. If you haven't succeeded in making it a habit in the month continue until you have. Once you have succeeded select another and continue.
In 6 months you will be surprised at how many healthy new habits you have adopted and how different you look and feel.
Happy Habit Forming!