A new year is when it is that most people take up new goals, a new focus and decide to start on health and fitness and wellness goals.
Most people start on that journey, and after a short time, unfortunately, tend to give up. Habits are what create patterns of behavior, good or bad. A bad habit is a habit because we have engaged in that behavior, over and over for a long period of time. Bad habits can be turned into good ones. But that is a challenge for most people. So how can you change and develop good habits that will stick?
Make Consistency King
When we have engaged in poor health habits over time, the results can be felt and seen, and it motivates us to want to change. Habits, good or bad, become magnets that pull us to think or act a certain way.
Creating new habits can seem like an overwhelming process.
Habits, good or bad, are formed through consistent practice over a long period of time. In fact, they become habits because we practice them so much, which makes them automatic and unconscious. This amount of practice cannot happen overnight, regardless of how hard one tries.
This year, instead of establishing unrealistic, highly disruptive New Year’s resolutions, consider a few small components of a larger goal that could be easily integrated and performed in daily life. Start with some simple tasks—such as drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning or leaving your phone in another room to charge while you sleep—and focus daily on consistently performing these simple tasks. As these small, positive habits become established, slowly introduce additional components, always moving toward the larger goal.
Much like the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to positive behavior change.
Meditation is a great way to get away and take care of ourselves in a way that is calming and can relieve stress. I know what you are saying, meditation is not for me! I can’t sit still! Believe me, I used to be critical of meditation, and that I didn’t need it or have the time for it. It doesn’t take a long time, and the benefits can be quite transformative over time.
Try the following practice for 60 seconds:
- Get comfortable while seated, standing or lying down.
- Close your eyes and let your body relax.
- Begin breathing in through your nose by expanding your belly.
- Try not to let the shoulders elevate.
- Listen for the air coming in and out through your nose.
- Allow thoughts to enter your mind, but don’t “attach” or entertain these thoughts. Let them pass.
- Continue for 60 seconds.
We could all use more sleep, including me. It is the foundation for healthy habits and can aid in weight loss, protect our brains, and reduce stress.
Sleep is a time to recover from the mental, physical and emotional demands of the day. A common recommendation is to get a minimum of seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night for optimal performance, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one out of every three people don’t achieve this goal. It appears that with less sleep, people experience a decrease in performance and an increase in morbidity and mortality.
From a day-to-day standpoint, lack of sleep can impair coordination and short-term memory while increasing the negative impact of stress. Building habits around getting a better quantity and quality of sleep can pay dividends in multiple aspects of life.
Below is a list of both good and bad sleep-related habits. Adopt one or more of the good habits, while focusing on eliminating one or more of the bad habits.
Good Sleep Habits
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each night.
- Exercise daily.
- Make the room as dark as possible.
- Avoid alcohol or nicotine consumption immediately before bed.
- Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom.
Poor Sleep Habits
- Checking phones and other devices from bed (both the blue light emitted and the arousing emotional reaction resulting from this practice may interfere with sleep).
- Eating immediately prior to sleep.
- Watching television or other screens before bed (screen time often competes with sleep time).
- Consuming caffeine late in the day.
- Having undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea (snoring).
While there is no magic pill for quality and quantity of sleep, adopting the above “good” habits and minimizing the “bad” increases the likelihood that sleep will be a help, not a hindrance to changing your life for the better.
I have begun to exercise some of the habits such as putting my phone outside of my bedroom at least an hour before bed and turning off screens before bedtime. I know I can improve on my sleep habits because I don’t sleep as many hours as I should, but it’s about progress, not perfection.
These are suggestions and goals to shoot for, so if you aren’t yet where you want to be, the key is don’t beat yourself up or engage in self-critical talk, because that can cause you to want to give up, and that does you no good.
If you want someone to keep you accountable to start and maintain healthy habits, I am just a call or an email away.