Building a habit is one of the most difficult things to do. It is also the most important to help your health and fitness (and financial) goals stick. Once you create a habit, your lifestyle changes will continue, but making these tasks a habit is not easy. Here are a few tips that have helped me turn daily tasks into habits.
Make a Routine
When I put something into my daily routine, it is much more likely to stick than putting it randomly throughout my calendar. For example, say you want to walk for 30 minutes a day, seems easy enough. Figure out the best time for this (Morning, Lunch, Evening) and make this a normal part of your day. Just like getting up and brushing your teeth, going for this walk should feel the same way.
Plan in Advance
This tip is key when trying to avoid the traps that we can sometimes fall into. Planning your week (Or month) out in advance will keep you on track should something go wrong with your plan. You won’t be as tempted to sink back into your old habits if you have made meals or planned out exercises ahead of time. Most people have tried meal planning before, and this is one of the best ways to ensure when everyone decides to go out for lunch, that you will stay in and eat what you brought from home. This can be used for exercise too, if you make plans to work out with a friend or you pay in advance for a class it makes it much more difficult to be “too tired” for exercise.
All or Nothing Mentality
People tend to have an all or nothing mentality when it comes to their health and fitness. “I’m going to go to the gym every day and cook all of my meals from home this week!” but by Friday, they had a busy day at work and didn’t have a chance to cook their meal (because they didn’t plan in advance) and they have to skip the gym and order takeout. Next thing I usually hear is “well screw it! I’ve messed up my whole plan so I guess I’ll just eat ice cream and have a bottle of wine!” Sound familiar? This all or nothing mentality will cause many to not stick with a plan or say that it never works for them.
We are all human, and with being human comes mistakes, embrace them. If your friends go out for happy hour after work, join them and have some nachos and a beer! Don’t make a habit of these behaviors, but don’t deprive yourself of everything just because it’s not within your exercises or nutrition plan. If you make the “right choice” with your health and wellness 80% of the time or more, the other 20% doesn’t matter nearly as much. The sooner you start back on your habit, the more likely it is to stick in your routine. Deviate when needed, but get back to your “good” habits as soon as you can.
Make it Boring/Easy
This may be a tip that doesn’t work for everyone, but I wanted to share what has worked for me in the past. Some people may find that the exact opposite is what works best for them. This worked for me because it took the guess work out of nutrition and exercise. I knew that I would have the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner (give or take a different protein) EVERY DAY. I also knew that I would follow an at home Workout DVD and follow exactly what they did EVERY EVENING. THAT’S IT. NO DEVIATION.
Now this method takes discipline, but it also took very little thought when it came to preparing meals or exercising. I took the constant thought out of it, I was able to be on autopilot when it came to those aspects of my life. It turned into a habit which I now have but am continually refining. I will now change things up all of the time, but it is because I built this base habit that I am able to succeed with the ever changing environment that I create.
Ian is a Certified Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist and all around active person. Comment below to ask questions, give feedback or interact with him!