Tips for Creating a Healthy Habit

What’s that one thing you’re doing (or not doing) that keeps sabotaging your health goals? For me, it’s not switching off screens early enough in the evening. Regardless of knowing how good it would be for me to make the change, knowledge alone is not enough to alter a behaviour. Making or breaking a habit takes hard work and dedication. Depending who you ask, it can take anywhere between 28 and 200 days of persevering with a behaviour before it becomes automatic. From talking to my clients and my own personal experience, here are my top tips to set you up for success.

Know your evil

Understanding WHY you fail to habitually do something is key to creating change.

Is it an issue of motivation? You may benefit from an accountability structure or a reward system to keep you on track. Is your goal unrealistic? Maybe your goal needs some refinement. Start with a smaller change and once you have that down pat, build on your goal. Are you impatient for results and quitting too soon? Change takes time. Acknowledge that it may take several attempts. Are you just forgetful? Set up a reminder.

These are just a few common examples of a ‘block’ to success. If you have a goal in mind, think about the possible problems you might encounter once you get started and have a plan to tackle them. If you have been trying for months to action your plan without success, spend some time reflecting on the reason for failure. When attempting something new, a troubleshoot plan that accounts for all possible issues that may arise will greatly improve the outcome.

Set a reminder

If your goal is something simple but a nuisance to remember, visual or auditory cues to remind yourself can be useful. This method works well for habits such as taking your supplements at the right time, drinking more water or doing a couple of minutes of mindful breathing throughout the day.

Use that smart phone you carry with you everywhere! Set a daily timed reminder for a time you know you will be undistracted. The feedback I have received from my clients - don’t schedule your reminder for a time you might be busy or you will switch it off and forget all about it!

If auditory prompts won’t work for you, the good old message on your mirror method works almost as well. Or a sticky note on the fridge, toilet door, steering wheel etc. Wherever you know you’ll look is where you leave your message. If you find yourself ignoring your message despite hearing/seeing it, forgetfulness is not the issue at play.

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Adopt an accountability buddy

Having someone on your side who will give you a boost on low days can go a long way. Pick someone who can relate to your circumstance or is supportive of your cause. Someone who you interact with regularly is ideal. Ask this person to do the activity with you, or at a minimum, remind you of your goal. Report your progress to one another.

Depending on your goal, there may also be organised groups out there to help you along. Say your goal is to exercise twice per week - joining a sporting team where teammates rely on your presence is a good example of how you can use accountability as a motivator.

Don’t give up after one attempt

You’ll have days where you fall off the wagon. That is OK. The research suggests that missing one day here and there will not undo the days/weeks prior where you have achieved your daily goal. Even if you fail day 1, remember that most habits take a minimum of 28 days to form. So keep at it.

So what are your health goals for the new year? We’d love to hear about them here at Narayani Wellness.

By Naturopath, Lucy Mason