How to build good habits
After a couple of weeks into the new year, have you let any newly formed healthy habits slide? Or are you still going strong?
The effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them, and results never come quickly, whether it is a good or a bad habit: if you eat an unhealthy meal or miss your yoga practice, you won't see a difference - the same goes if you eat a healthy lunch and join a class, you won't be fit and healthy in an instant.
But if we repeat good decisions & habits and we are looking back a few months later, the impact they deliver can be enormous. You get, what you repeat. (Sadly, the same goes for bad habits.)
Sometimes changes in habits can seem ineffective as progress is slow and you see no tangible results. You might decide to stop, because after a few weeks of yoga your wrists still hurt or you still can't balance, touch those toes or find your abs. But habits need to persist long enough to make a breakthrough. If you want better results, don't focus on the goals. Instead, focus on your system - the collection of your daily habits.
Make regular movement a part of your system: whether it is yoga, stretching, HIIT, strengthening or relaxing. Mix it up, make it regular, reap the benefits and experience the knock-on effects: better sleep, mood, body-awareness, self-love, ...
Below some tips of how to make a habit stick.
Vague statements like 'I want to be healhier', 'I want to do more exercise', 'I want to be more productive' will seldom lead to a long-term change in habits. Instead, we need to be specific, stating when and where a new habit lives.
When we say 'I want to do more yoga', there are often reasons found, why we cannot: too tired, too busy, too whatever. Try instead:
'On Monday and Thursday I will do yoga at 8:30am in the bedroom'
'At 9:15am every day, I will sit on my desk and send one email to a potential new client'
'At 12pm I will meditate for 1minute'
(You can do this with any new habit)
You are much more likely to stick to this. Remove all obstacles, prime your environment to make showing up easy. Mark this time in your calendar, set a alarm if you must, lay out your yoga gear, make sure nothing and no one comes between you and your new habit. And then show up. After a while showing up will get easier, it becomes part of who you are. Maybe you will write two emails or spend longer in meditation or practice more yoga or become an expert in meal preparation.
What if you miss a day? That's ok but NEVER MISS TWICE.
Planning is important but don't forget to take action. Thinking about how you will write an email or meditate or do yoga regularly is not the same as doing it. Thinking doesn't move you forward, action does.
Pairing a new habit with an existing habit, using the formula: 'Before/after/during I (existing habit), I will (new habit)'. Some ideas:
- During teeth brushing, I will practice balancing or squatting.
- After teeth brushing, I will sit in meditation for 1min
- After my morning meditation, I will write my to-do list
- After I wake up, I will spend 10min doing Wim Hof breathing using a video guide
- After I have a hot shower, I will turn the temperatur to cold for a few seconds
- After I get up, I will put on my workout clothes
- After I finish work, I will turn off my mobile phone
- After Sunday breakfast, I will make meal plan for the week
- After I get up, I will make my bed and place an book on the pillow
- Whilst the kettle is boiling, I do some mindful breathing
Optimising your External Environment
If you want to make a good habit stick and get rid of a bad one, you need to prime your environment. The good habit should be the path of least resistance and their should be enough obstacles in the bad habit's way, so you simply can't be bothered. Here are some ideas:
- Clean out your fridge and food cupboard. If I have junk in the house, I eat it. So I don't have any. Zero. Out of sight, out of mind.
- A basket of fruit on the table. A jug of water on your desk.
- A dedicated yoga or meditation space? A tidy area with your mat and props laid out (or in a pretty basket for easy access)
- Create an inviting reading area
Rewards and Accountability Partner
If you need an instant reward after a good habit, make sure it is in line with that habit. For example: yoga can be very rewarding in itself and having a fag or croissant after is the polar opposite of what yoga is and what you want to achieve with it. Try and find some other kind of instant reward: a habit tracker, a checkbox you tick after each class (and after 5 you reward yourself with a luxurious bath?!), a celery stick - ok, maybe that's not a reward but a healthy brunch after yoga will make you feel so much better and you have had the full Monty for your body: the exercise, the relaxation and the nutrition.
Or simply let go of the idea that yoga or any other good habit is a chore that we need to be rewarded for with a bad habit?! Still struggling? How about an accountability partner?
Accountability partner = Someone who knows what you need to do and which habits to kick and which ones to implement to achieve an improvement in your health or relationship or career or ... . The idea is that it will be easier to do the habit than to explain why you didn't to that person.
It should be someone who is as committed as you are, someone who is available, honest and genuinely interested in your success. Ideally not a close friend.
Make the Habit Part of Your Identity
Choose who you want to be: a healthy person or a reliable one, someone with boundaries, an athlete, an environmentalist, a writer, a successful entrepreneur, ... choose and take pride in that person and align your habits accordingly.
Change your system so that it fits in with that person. Ask yourself: what would a sustainable person do? Take a lot of long-haul flights and eat beef every week? What would a healthy person do? Go to bed or watch telly until midnight? Cook a proper brunch/dinner or snack all day? Adjust your system and your habits to that of a healthy person.
Change your mindset and how you identify yourself: instead of 'trying to eat healthier' you are a 'healthy person'. Instead of 'trying to do some yoga', you become a yoga practitioner. You stick to your habits (healthy meals, regular yoga practice, ...) and over time you won't question whether to cook or snack, whether to go to bed or get pissed, whether to turn up to a class or skip it - being healthy and self-loving is simply something you do. Yoga or a healthy lifestyle or knowing your self-worth becomes a part of your identity.
Thank you for participating and your kinds words! The survey was anonymous so I mostly coulnd't guess who wrote what. But I love you too :)
65 of your filled out the questionaire and Here are the results:
Which time(s) would you prefer?
Which days of the week would you prefer?
What length should a class have?
I messed up that question, you were meant to be able to tick several boxes ... most people said 45min, some would like 30min or 1hour.
Anything longer than 45min doesn't work for me, I have to be mindful of my own body or I will burn out.
Which type(s) of classes are you interested in?