We are creatures of habit.
Habits help us move through our day without having to fully engage in a task that we repeat regularly. We are so well rehearsed at some tasks we can be busy daydreaming, planning or pondering without giving any conscious thought to the immediate task in hand.
Have you ever suddenly come around from an all-consuming daydream only to find you’ve made it to your destination without barely a conscious thought about the route, the practicalities of driving, or the other unsuspecting drivers on the road? That’s the power of a habit. You have dozens, maybe even hundreds of habits. Habits can be time-savers and some are very useful. Others can be time-wasters or just plain destructive.
So how do you know which of your activities are habits; which do you keep and which do you ditch? Here are a few steps to help you reach your conclusion.
1. Write it all down
Take some time to think. Work through your day and write down every activity that you undertake each day, when you do it, how you feel about it and why you do it. Be detailed. Do this for a full week and notice where the patterns lie.
2. Identify the bad habits
Take a different colour pen and circle around all of the habitual activities that you’re not happy about. Perhaps you always have a few biscuits with your morning coffee, or you check your social media accounts late at night. When you see the habits in front of your own eyes, you will know yourself which ones aren’t so good.
3. Replace them with good ones
For each bad habit replace the activity with a good habit. For example, move from ‘I always grab a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar to eat with my lunch, on the go’ to ‘I will choose a salad and a yoghurt for lunch, and make time to eat them away from my desk’. Or ‘I always have a glass of wine when the kids have gone to bed’ to ‘I relax with a cuppa and a few chapters of my book, when the kids have gone to bed’.
4. Set some goals
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither are good habits. Set yourself some realistic goals that are time-bound and are realistic for you to achieve. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to eradicate your bad habits over night. It takes a long time to develop a habit, whether they’re good or bad.
5. Share them with someone
Tell a close friend, family member or your partner about the changes you intend to make. Having someone to share your progress with will mean you’re more likely to stick to your goals and they’ll be able to provide some moral support if you struggle.
6. Keep a record
Record your progress. Keep a diary to monitor your changes and how much you’re achieving from week to week. Take time at the end of each week to look back and review how you’re progressing.
7. Reward yourself
Adopt the 80:20 rule. 20% of the time you can treat yourself; give yourself a break! Don’t let the lifestyle changes control you. The purpose of making healthy changes is to take control over the habits in your life. Reward your progress now and then. However, be sure to identify the difference between the ‘everyday’ and the ‘treat’. Getting this balance right will make your lifestyle changes sustainable.
Here are some good lifestyle habits to inspire change. Choose a few to stick to. Why not start today?
Pick a time each day to exercise and stick to it. Aim for 3- 5 times a week to get your kit on and get out there. Having a regular time dedicated to a workout will mean you’re more likely to stick to it and plan other engagements around your ‘active time’.
Take the stairs. Make a point of always using the stairs no matter where you are, or how many floors you have to climb!
Make time in the day to walk. It might be your lunch break, a walk to or from work, or an evening stroll. All of those steps add up and stop us becoming sedentary people.
Lay out your running gear / gym clothes / trainers where you can see them. If they are within easy reach and you can see them clearly, you’re more likely to get them on and get out.
Reduce your screen time
Take regular screen breaks. Stand and stretch for a few minutes every hour when you’re at your desk or place of work. Set a timer on your watch or phone to remind you.
Keep control of your screen time. Take back control over your phone or your tablet. Don’t let social media rule your free time and schedule slots each day where you are allowed to browse, to post and to like. You’ll notice how much more time you have available to be more active or simply to relax.
Ban the phone. Don’t use your phone at the dinner table or in bed. By simply banning your phone from these places you’ll instantly reduce the time you spend browsing.
Keep a food diary. This is the best way to notice patterns and good or bad food choices. Do this for a week and you’ll soon get the idea. If you want to take this a step further, take photographs of each meal (No, not for Instagram!) and you’ll also be able to notice the colours (no beige plates please), portion sizes and the balance of macro-nutrients (protein, carbs, fats) much more clearly.
Be prepared. A lot of the time, our poor food and drink choices are due to poor planning. When we aren’t prepared we will often grab the quickest and most convenient option. When we consciously make a plan, prepare in advance and stick to our decisions we are more likely to make better choices.
Eat at a table. Try to limit the TV dinners; you’ll be less conscious of each mouthful and are more likely to overeat and under chew; all leading to poor digestion. By sitting at a table you are more likely to consciously chew and swallow each bite, without TV distractions.
Drink more water. Most people do not drink enough water. You should be aiming for around 2 litres a day. You should aim for approximately 31ml of water per kg of body weight. So for a person weighing 65kg 2 litres of water is perfect. For someone weighing 90kg it’s slightly more at 2.75 litres of water.
Set yourself a munching curfew. Aim to finish your dinner by 8pm (earlier if possible) and don’t eat after that time. This way you’ll avoid the sleepy snacking and the habitual biscuits and you’ll also give your body time to digest the food and wind down ready for sleep.
Structure your shop
Write a list and stick to it. Plan your meals for the week and write a list of all the ingredients you will need. When you have a list you’re less likely to put things in the trolley like ready meals, snacks and fast food options that are easy to imagine plonking on your plate.
Shop after you’ve eaten. Never head to the shops on an empty stomach. Hungry shopping spells disaster down the crisp and chocolate aisles.
Avoid the tempting aisles. An easy thing to do is to avoid the aisles where you know your temptation lies. Changing your route around the supermarket is easy to do and saves you time to boot.
Get more sleep
Regular bed time. Set yourself a regular bed time and wake time. Allow your body to develop a healthy sleeping habit. Getting a good night’s sleep is not just good for the mind, it’s good for the body too. Lack of sleep can increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body and this is bad for fat gain, especially around the middle.
Get the right environment. Keep your room cool (difficult in this heat, I know), dark (try blackout curtains or an eye mask), quiet (try earplugs) and dust and clutter free (try a cleaner!).
Use essential oils. A small amount of lavender oil on your pillow may help to relax you into sleep.
Have a bath. Get into a routine of having a warm bath before bed. Go the whole hog and glug in the bubble bath, light a few candles and let the stresses of the day soak away.
Wind down. Start winding down for bed a few hours before you want to drift off. Turn the lights down, read a book, turn off your phone, close the laptop and turn off the TV. Whatever you do, don’t watch TV in bed.
Stop clock watching. If you struggle to get to sleep, watching the minutes and hours tick away does nothing to relax you. Ban visible clocks from the bedroom and stop checking your watch.
Take it step-by-step, slow and steady. A lifestyle overhaul will not happen without determination, support and a plan. Most importantly don’t let bad habits take over your life and become destructive. Habits can be a good way to make positive changes. So start forming some good ones!
I hope this has been useful for you and good luck! I’d love to hear own healthy habits.
Comment below to share your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.