Secrets from our Habit Coach Dr Heather McKee
Five Ways to Create Healthy Habits That Last
1. Small changes big results
When we embark on a new regime, we often feel really motivated, making promises to go to the gym every day, to stop procrastinating, to cut out sugar… But pursing several goals at once creates unnecessary pressure – we feel that if we don’t follow through without any slip ups, all our efforts will have been in vain. Research shows that small, simple actions become habitual more quickly, so adopting healthy habits should be a gradual process of introducing small yet consistent changes in our lifestyles over time. Instead of trying to do everything at once, why not focus on finding one small change and making it stick?
2. Be kind to yourself
It might feel that being kind to yourself will encourage overindulgence – without that nagging voice telling us we are not good enough, slim enough, trying hard enough, we would end up bingeing on Netflix and eating pizza all day. But research shows that self-kindness actually enhances our motivation, helping us to eliminate procrastination, boosting our will to try again after what feels like a failure and supporting us in wanting to be the best we possibly can. Being kind to yourself is associated with improved well-being, increased happiness and a more focused you. So for the best results, calm your inner critic and work on feeling compassion for both yourself and others.
3. Create a supportive environment
Research shows that we make more than 250 food choices a day, each of which has an impact on our health. But a lot of the time we are not even aware of the decisions we are making. Things as specific as where we store our food or the plates we use can profoundly influence our ability to resist temptation. So manipulating our environment to lessen the temptation makes it easier for us to make healthy choices. When it comes to healthy eating habits, the key principle is ‘out of sight, out of mind’. So why not see how you can change your surroundings to help you to change yourself?
4. Treat your willpower like a muscle
Think of your willpower as a muscle – if you overtrain it, it will become fatigued and you’ll end up not being able to exercise it at all. But if you train it at a level that’s sustainable, giving yourself intervals of rest and recovery, like a muscle it can gradually grow stronger over time. Making small changes rather than attempting to do everything at once and minimising temptation so your willpower is not overexercised both allow it to build strength and operate at maximum efficiency. Get willpower fit!
5. Find healthy habits you enjoy
Rather than choking down a kale salad that gives you no pleasure, or joining a spin class that makes you dread the gym, ask yourself if there might be another healthy option you would like better? Studies show that finding healthy habits you enjoy and focusing on the positive feelings they give you make you more likely to stick with them long term. Ultimately, successful habit change shouldn’t feel like too much effort – finding behaviours that are rewarding in their own right and celebrating the joy they give you makes it more likely you will continue to engage with them and so achieve your goals.
If you want to find out more about how creating healthy habits that last can help you to achieve your goals, join our habit coach Dr Heather McKee for a series of three workshops starting on 2 October. Click here to find out more.