Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Top 10 Ways to create healthier habits

Have you tried to change your lifestyle for the better in the past, and been unsuccessful? As a Personal Trainer and Healthy Habit Coach I find the most common mistake made by all of us is expecting too much.

Life is busy: Work, kids, relationships, monetary concerns, as we set about changing our lifestyle typical goals include: Lose weight, get fit, be more active, and eat less. The issue here is that although these aspirations are well meaning they are simply too big. The key with habit making is small/ micro goals which are too easy to say no= setting yourself up to succeed! We all like to succeed!!

1: Keep it simple:
This is incredibly important. Understand completely what you have asked of yourself. For instance: If you want to lose weight, the habit you chose to focus on maybe “eat one extra vegetable per day” This will work for a number of reasons: fibrous vegetables have little energy/ calories, the bulk of them can help to displace more energy dense foods. For many this will be achievable.

How can I do this?
Cut vegetables into batons twice weekly, store them in the fridge in portion size containers and eat for a snack. As Bruce Lee famously said: “Simplicity is the key to brilliance!”

2: Keep it quick and easy:
The habit you choose should be so easy you can’t say no. It should be completed and logged in a matter of minutes each day. A busy individual, who does little activity, with lots of commitments who wants to move more, is likely to struggle to walk for an hour a day.

How can I do this?
Plan your day so that you have time to take the stairs on the way in and out of the office, likely to take a couple of minutes (provided you don’t work on floor 38 at Canary Wharf).

3: Keep a record:
One of the main objectives with habit forming is consistency; we are all the sum of our small repeated, effortless actions! In order to monitor consistency you could keep a log, a simple tick sheet, like the one below does a great job.

How can I do this?
Download and print the habit tracker below. Amazing what a simple tick in a box does for adherence (remember gold stars when you were at school? –the principle is the same).

4: Keep a trigger (AKA a reminder):
How many times have you told yourself “Today I’m going to…………” in order to become healthier. The problem is that unless we commit to when this will happen, it’s likely that we will get caught up on other things (walking the dog, feeding the children, visiting relatives etc.).

How can I do this?
All of our lives follow a similar pattern, take a look at your day… you already have loads of habits, such as: Wake up, shower, have breakfast, brush teeth……… Attach the new habit to an existing one, I like to call this HABIT STACKING…. Soon, you won’t be able to old habit without the new

5:  Keep it small:
They say size doesn’t matter, it’s certainly true when it comes to habits.
It's much better to create a small sustainable habit than to ask too much. How many times have you tried to change without success? It's a good idea to ask less of yourself and be kind as you set about changing your habits. Small habits can always be made bigger!

How can I do this?
If the habit you’re working on takes more than 2/3 minutes a day you are unlikely to sustain it! –Enter failure, and all the emotions that go with it! Perhaps take a look at some of your previous attempts to change and ask yourself why it didn’t work, the likely response is: “It’s too hard! I can’t do it!, I don’t like it!, I don’t have time!“Incubate the habit, make it bigger over time!”

6: Keep consistency (Routine):
Our brains like repetition, it views repetition as safe! Lets take advantage of this!

Remember: “A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly, and tends to occur subconsciously”

Think of the brain as a field. If you tread the same steps often enough, you create a pathway.
Try taking a walk in a field but don’t use the footpath, see how strange it feels!

How can I do this?
Make sure your habit can be practised daily at exactly the same trigger. This will build Neuro footprints in our behaviour/ pathways.

7: Take a break, once a week:
Yes! That’s right! Choose one day a week and have a break from habit building and tracking. You did great for 6 out of 7 days so take a day off (of habit tracking only, everything else stays in order). When you return to tracking the following day, it will be with new enthusiasm. Remember: “It’s so easy you can’t say NO!”

How can I do this?
Choose the day, and take a break from habit tracking. It’s that simple. For many people it will be a Saturday. Remember this isn’t a carte blanche to eat whatever you want and spend the day on the sofa, you don’t want to waste the effort that you’ve put in this week ;-)

WATCH OUT… Weekends are dangerous as our routine is often more relaxed. The weekend begins Friday so each Thursday, think about how will you manage the weekend? What are the boundaries make sure these are clear every Thursday!

8: Keep it real:
That’s right Gangsta! …………
It’s Friday, you look at your tracker and you have managed to complete the habit twice this week (SIGH!). So revisit the habit: Why hasn’t it worked? Too complicated? Takes too long? It's too expensive? Then revise the habit.......

How can I do this?
Make the habit and your expectations of yourself smaller, SET YOURSELF UP TO SUCCEED. Once you have consistency (12 out of 14 days) you can make the habit bigger and more challenging.

9: Rinse and repeat:
You know you should be drinking around 3 litres of water a day, but you were smart, when you set this habit up! Having tried to increase water intake and given up before, you chose to have a glass of water before your first cup of coffee each day. You’ve smashed the habit for 14 days, you’re proud and you know you can do more. 
Go ahead, progress… maybe you will have another glass of water before lunch?

How can I do this?
Review the tracker, 12 out of 14 is your pass to progress the goal. Keep progressions small to ensure success.

10: Keep trying:
So you tried, it went wrong. Spend some time looking at what it was like to complete the habit in real life. Sometimes we have lofty aspirations and our daily life gets in the way. What was the obstacle and why did it get in the way?

The thing that separates those who succeed from those who do not is successful people don’t give up! Check out this video link, where James Dyson speaks about failure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5eIyRVpwmc

Feel free to use this link to get your own habit Tracker:

If you have any questions or would like to talk to me about how you can change your habits, long term – then why not get in touch? Call me on 01273 258212


Andy Payne is a Personal Trainer, based near Brighton in East Sussex, and founder of Three Pillars of Fitness, Exercise : Diet : Mind. You can follow him on Facebook and twitter