Here’s How to Make Healthy Habits Last

Here’s How to Make Healthy Habits Last

I’ve worked in the wellness world for over 10 years and there’s one challenge that puzzles us all (yes, myself included). The problem we’re all trying to solve is, “How the heck do I keep my healthy routine going?! Why is it so hard to transform my intentions into a lasting new normal?” First of all, please know that behavior change is HARD, no matter what area of life you’re trying to modify. The good news is that hard doesn’t mean impossible and you can crush hard things!

Over the years, I’ve helped various individuals and organizations move towards healthier practices for the long haul. Every person and group is different, but there are principles that apply to us all. I want to share a few of my favorites with you:

Ditch all-or-nothing thinking- This way of thinking defeats your efforts before you even start. Behavior change is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to mess up, stumble, and start again. On your journey, something IS better than nothing. Every effort counts and propels you closer towards your goal. My encouragement to you is to celebrate hitting the gym 3 out of 5 times this week or simply creating – not mastering – a budget as a starting place. You’re on your way! Aiming for perfection leaves no room for grace or growth. It takes a lot of intentionality to focus on progress instead (especially for certain personality types – any fellow Enneagram 1’s out there?) but it’s what gets you across your finish line.

Explore habit stacking- One of the biggest barriers to starting and sticking with healthy habits is the perceived or real lack of time. One solution is to infuse habit stacking into the mix. This is when you couple a new desired behavior with an existing activity in your daily routine. For example, you can start doing 20 squats as you brush your teeth in the morning to hit your physical wellness goals. Or you can plan phone calls with family and friends on your drive home from work to strengthen your social wellbeing. The key is to make a small, specific addition to what you’re already doing. This method sets you up for success because you’re not creating time in your already full day and you’re also acting towards your habit goal. What other habit stacking ideas come to mind for you?

Tap into your intrinsic motivation- We’re all familiar with extrinsic motivation used to achieve goals. This is behavior change that’s motivated by external rewards like praise from others, making a special purchase, or making money. Extrinsic motivation also comes from avoiding punishment for not doing something. Nothing is wrong with treating yourself or outside reinforcement, but something magical happens when you can tap into your intrinsic motivation! Intrinsic motivation is behavior driven by internal rewards and doing things because they are naturally satisfying to you. Does the healthy habit you’re pursuing connect to what you love to do and allow you to learn/experience something that’ll simply add personal value to your life? Some examples are reading a good book, going on walk for all the fresh air, or volunteering in your community. Habits connected to this type of motivation stick with you longer and can better withstand setbacks that arise because they’re connected to a higher purpose.

Making healthy habits part of your everyday life is not an easy feat. My hope is that these tips make it a little easier for you to shift your perspective and move towards your wellness goals. Remember, a small tweak goes a long way!

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