We all know what it’s like to be a creature of habit. Even if it’s subconsciously so, we surely take comfort out of the little rituals we habitually do; Netflix before bedtime; double espresso on our way to work; a jog around the park to clear our heads after a long day.
There may be many practices self-implemented into our lives, some which become more ingrained than others. From brushing our teeth, to grabbing a candy bar after lunch, or making a conscious effort to wash the dishes straight after dinner; our life is made up of many habits, good and bad.
My fascination with habits led me to thinking about how we can overhaul our behaviors and make changes for the better. Discovered through my own habit journey, here are five key steps to making healthy habit changes, for a happier daily routine:
- Analyze Existing Habits and Ask Yourself Why
When it comes to optimizing a habit, start by looking at your current behaviors and why you do them.
Perhaps, it is providing temporary relief from stress, such as a couple of glasses of wine after work each night. It may be workplace stress, therefore, at the root of the habitual drinking.
Find ways in which to handle the stress – instead of drinking, perhaps enrol on a course you’ve always wanted to do, or go to a dance class to shake off the day.
- Self-Care at the Heart of Everything
Self-care is SO important; I cannot emphasize this enough. Our habits should reflect love, kindness and compassion towards ourselves. Think about putting into action the habits you need to become the best version of the wonderful person you already are; be aware of your feelings of self-worth and knowing your value as an individual.
When looking at your habits, ask yourself: Is this habit healthy?
Then, ask yourself: Does this habit make me happy?
The answer must be yes, to both questions, otherwise you have a habit that doesn’t serve you.
- Let Go of Guilt, Patiently
Guilt is a complex emotion. That doesn’t mean you should allow it to rule your life.
If you have a habit that makes you feel guilty (mine used to be binge-eating chocolate, alone after work, and hiding the wrappers) then remember the rule of self-care.
Yes, the chocolate made me happy for a while, but guilt soon crept over me (hence, hiding the evidence). Why did I feel guilty? Because I knew it wasn’t a healthy choice. I knew it was only temporary relief from the stress underlying my actions.
Phasing out the guilt and moving positively forward won’t happen immediately – first, we must embrace how we feel and accept it is part of who we are: we care, that is why we feel this way. Turn guilt into a strength, an awareness, a desire to do better.
Next, we need patience. Be patient with all your chosen changes. Be patient with your new habit goals. Be patient with yourself. You will get there, with kindness and time.
- Keep it Bite-Sized
Small changes are what makes a difference when we take on a new habit or change a bad one for the better.
Keep your new choice of habit simple.
Make it small and make it easy; huge life changes implemented suddenly, can feel overwhelming or result in our losing motivation too soon.
For example: instead of promising never to touch unhealthy food again, cook one meal that’s healthy, each week. Or, swap one bag of chips for a handful of almonds or a piece of fruit.
Maybe, instead of declaring you will go jogging every day, try one minute of exercise instead (Or 10 squats or 5 sit ups). Once you are in the habit of your bite-sized behavior, you can build upon it.
- Have a Back-Up Plan
We all need a back-up plan when making life changes.
Tip: Keeping a planner or journal handy can really help with this.
If you think your healthy habits will fall by the wayside when you are in a certain place or with a specific person, think ahead and plan for all the outcomes you can foresee. Once you have a list of potential temptations, write down solutions to them. If you slip into old behaviors, take note of these and avoid them in the future.
All changes take time.
Remember, start habits consciously small and develop them as the actions become second nature.
With these points in mind, I hope you’ll find it easier to take that first and all-important step forward, building up your new routines, one habit at a time.
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