We all have habits some that are helping us achieve our goals and others that are taking us further away from them. After all, how many times have you said that this time you were really going to commit to your health goals, only to be back where you started a week later?
Building new habits aren't easy, it is so hard to be consistent when you have a million other things to do and think about. However, success will only come to you when our behaviours change from intentional to automatic, in other words, when we stop thinking about what we're doing and act on impulse.
It is important to note that building healthy habits isn't just about exercising and eating well, it is also about what you are thinking and saying. If you are constantly stressed in a bad place mentally it is playing a toll on your body. People think it is a whole lot of hippie stuff when people talk about the mind and body connection, but it is real. Health includes everything mind, body and soul!
So how do we build these healthy habits?
For those of you who have never heard of habit stacking before it is pretty much what it sounds like. You create new habits by stacking them on to habits that you already have.
The idea behind habit stacking is that it is easier to create new habits because the current habits you are stacking them on top of, are already ingrained in your brain. Don't worry it will make more sense as I go through the steps of creating a healthy habit.
Steps To Creating Healthy Habits
Step 1: Commit To Your Health and Goals
Creating a new habit is never going to happen if we don't want it to. Think about it, has a doctor ever told you to do something you didn't want to do? E.G. they told you to eat more fruit, however, you don't actually like fruit. You are never going to stick to the habit of eating fruit because in the back of your mind you are telling yourself you don't want to do it.
To overcome this you need to commit to your goals and figure out your why. Why do you want to exercise more? Why are you trying to eat more greens? Why are you trying to improve your health?
Your why is going to be different to everyone else's but it is so important to have a crystal clear why in your head. Or you can even write it down and stick it somewhere you will see it every day. You need something to come back to when you need to motivate yourself.
Step 2: Link Your New Habit To An Established One
This is where we get into the habit stacking. In order for habit stacking to work, you need to find the right existing habit to stack your new habit on. Here are some things you might want to think about.
1. What time of day do you want your new habit to take place?
If you want it to become a part of your morning routine you then need your trigger habit to be something you do every single morning.
2. Make sure your trigger habit is something you do every single morning.
For example, if I wanted to add exercise to my morning routine I would link it to brushing my teeth or having a shower because these are things I do every single day. On the other hand, I wouldn't link it to things like doing my makeup because I don't wear makeup everyday.
Try making a list of all your existing habits during the time of day you want your new habit to be, then choose the one that you think will be the best habit trigger.
Your habit stacks should look something like this.
After I [existing habit], I will [new habit].
Here are some examples for inspiration:
After I turn my alarm off in the morning, I will drink 500ml of water.
After I brush my teeth I will do 20 minutes of exercise.
After I eat I will do the dishes
After I get into bed I will read my book
Step 3: Write habits down and use a planner/calendar to schedule
Whatever your health goals are, add them to your calendar. Make a plan and stick to it.
If your goal is to wake up earlier to exercise schedule it in. If you want to read every night before you go to sleep schedule it in. Then make it a habit to always check your calendar before you go to sleep, so you know what you have planned for the next day.
I personally add my habits into the calendar on my phone, however, if you prefer to have a physical calendar/planner you can buy one.
If your not a calendar/planner person, write down a checklist of your goals for the next day each night. Make it visual and somewhere you will see it as soon as you wake up.
Step 4: Start Slow
When people get on the healthy bandwagon they often try to change everything about them at once. Instead, focus on one or two things a time, once you can do them consistently every day then think about adding in some more habits.
For example, if you tried adding in meditation, stretching and exercise all into your morning routine a day one you are probably going to get overwhelmed. So instead try adding in one thing at a time.
Step 5: Find Someone To Hold You Accountable/Share Habits and Goals with Friends
Telling a close friend or family member is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Often we don't care if we let ourselves down, but when we tell someone else about our habit. It then feels like we are letting them down if we don't keep it up.
If you are brave enough you can also go public and start a Facebook page, Instagram or Personal blog following your journey. This way you are not only letting yourself down but also your followers. I know it is a great incentive for me!
Step 6: Create Place Holder Habits
Habits thrive on repetition, but what happens when the habit you want to build isn't one you want/need to every day. For example, if the habit you want to build is exercise-related you are going to have days off.
When you are only practising a healthy habit two or three times a week, we are potentially practising the opposite of our new habit 4 or 5 times a week. Which habit do you think is going to win? And this is where women like you and me get stuck. Our willpower runs out and we give up on our habit because it just isn't sticking.
So the trick to creating repetition with your healthy habit without practising your habit is to adopt a placeholder habit. A good place holder habit needs to be similar to the habit you are trying to build but a light version of it.
For example, if you want to add in 3x 20minute workouts a week, a good place holder habit could be 20 minutes of walking or stretching.
It's so powerful because it holds space in your schedule, and you are still raking up the repetition points which will strengthen your habit.
Step 7: Celebrate The Small Wins
Are you on a streak for one of your habits you are trying to build? Then it is time to reward yourself.
The reward doesn't have to cost money, it can simply be something you enjoy doing. For example, if my goal is to exercise every day for 20 minutes, and I consistently do it I will reward myself by jumping in the spa afterwards.
Yours could be as simple as watching your favourite movie or tv show.
Step 8: Track Your Progress/Make Actions Feel Good In The Now
Think about it when a habit is rewarding at the moment, there is more incentive for us to keep practising a habit. For example, it typically feels better to watch your favourite tv show than exercise for 20 minutes as first.
However, in the moment, the reward of sticking to our weight loss plan is almost invisible. Which in turn makes it much harder to stay motivated to continue with our healthy habits.
After all, if we got a 6 pack after doing just 20 crunches we would all have them.
So we need to find a way to make our healthy habits more rewarding, whether or not the evidence of our hard work is apparent.
How do we do that? The simplest way I have found is to use something as simple as a printable habit tracker. This is the adult version of 'sticker charts' and to be honest it is really satisfying marking off another square. And when I see I am on a 2-week streak it motivates me to keep going.
You can make your own, or there are 100's of them that can be downloaded for free online. Just google "habit tracker" and find one that works for you.
Step 9: Recover Quickly When You Go Off Track
Whilst we try as hard as we might, we all know the drill, somehow we skip a day. Whether it is we aren't feeling well, hurt ourselves or are just feeling exhausted.
And that is okay, but instead of getting back on track straight away, we wait. Whether it is waiting for a new day, new week or even a new month. We all wait because we love the feeling of having a blank slate in front of us.
But here is the thing, the sooner we correct our mistake, the less work we have to do to fix it.
Be flexible and give yourself grace, then shake it off and get back on track asap. Your healthy living journey isn't always going to go perfectly, but the most important thing is to remember your why and not to stop.
Even if you don't realise it, habits literally make up our entire day. The way we brush our hair, tie our shoelaces, put our clothes on are all habits.
Whilst creating new healthy habits can seem really overwhelming and hard I hope you find this blog post helpful. Let me know what habits you are going to start building.
What you should do now
I have been where you are and I have women all over the world (just like you) transition to eating a plant-based diet. If you are looking for a guide to help you find the healthiest way to eat, check out these blog posts it is a great place to start.
If you are interested in weight loss, download this fantastic FREE Mini Weight Loss Guide and other resources.
If you would like to fast track your weight loss, check out my Weight Loss Starter Kit.
And finally, if you want to join the Where My Footsteps Go Community click here.