Part 1: The Mechanics of Habit-Building
In my last post, I talked about 3 ways to get into healthier diet habits without increasing stress. In these next two posts I’ll show you a few non-dietary ways to improve your health without feeling steamrolled. These simple ways will get you moving and keep you moving, and are easily incorporated into your daily routine.
Yes, of course, I mean exercising. But don’t get into a lather about it. I’m not going to recommend some strenuous or time-consuming addition to your already loaded day! What I’m going to present are a few simple tweaks that will help you incorporate more movement, steps, and activity. You will gradually find you are able to move more easily, burn more calories, and enjoy a more fit body. You’ll want to make these things an automatic part of your busy day. But first, let’s talk about the mechanics of making changes and building habits.
Small Adjustments = A Change in Direction
One of my favorite analogies about change is the illustration of a ship headed toward a particular port. Imagine that the ship’s captain makes a tiny little adjustment to the direction of the ship. Nobody notices that the ship is heading a few degrees to the left or to the right. But as the ship continues on its course, it is now pointed slightly away from its original destination. The further the ship travels, the farther off the original course it gets. When it finally comes into port, it is a totally different location than the original port. Just from one tiny change! If the captain continued to make small changes – the ship might arrive at a destination on a completely different continent!
You can build habits more easily by making small, incremental changes than by trying to change in one big leap. In fact, trying to go from zero to 100% is about the fastest way to failure when trying to form a new habit. Very few people are able to go “cold turkey” or be an overnight success at maintaining a new behavior! Even if you have strong willpower and drive, life somehow gets in the way of building or breaking a habit. You might find yourself slammed by unforeseen events that effectively block your efforts. But often times it’s just the same-old, same-old that holds sway. Eventually, you realize you’ve fallen back into an old behavior because it’s easier and requires less thinking.
Identify the Why
First of all, find your motivation. Get a clear understanding of why you need to make the change. It may be as simple as fitting into your favorite pants without looking like you were poured into them. Perhaps it is a little grander; a wedding, class reunion, or another special event. Maybe it’s a life-changing reason, such as resisting a chronic disease, healing your body or avoiding health issues that accompany overweight. Whatever your “why” is, that is the goal you are seeking. It’s what will keep you going when you want to backslide into your old habits.
Visualize the outcome
If you can picture what your destination looks like, you will be more likely to keep on course. Imagine the dress, the swimsuit, the healthy body, or whatever your goal is, (or find an actual picture). Burn it into your mind or post it where you can see it every day. Let that image be a stimulus to you, especially in moments of weakness.
Have a Plan
Don’t set yourself up to fail because you didn’t bring a road-map. Jot down a plan for success by listing where you want to start, and your steps to success. In part 2, I’m going to list some tips and ideas for easy exercises and routines to include in your plan. You can decide where you want to start, and what to do after you master your first efforts. Tweak your plan as you go. If you start out a little too ambitiously; you may have to scale it back. Or perhaps you underestimated yourself and find you are not challenged enough; so beef it up a little. But most of all, stick to your general outline and keep your eyes on the prize!
Give Yourself Time…
You are in this to get the job done, so allow yourself the time you need to do it right. Take the baby steps, and let each phase become a natural part of your body and activity. I strongly recommend the 30-day method. Thirty days is the space of time it usually takes for a habit to embed itself in your brain. Before moving on to the next step or phase, allow yourself 30 days to practice one behavior. This way, you focus on creating one habit without adding stress to your busy day.
So you fell off the wagon, skipped a few days, or just generally blew it. Forgive yourself and get back on the horse. Don’t allow guilt or self-abuse derail your efforts! You’re human. Humans fail. But humans also get up and try again and go on to bigger and better things because of it. You are able to achieve it. Rejoin the human race and go for it again.
Buddy-up and Celebrate Your Triumphs
If you have a buddy along with you, your trek is a little less grueling, and wins are much sweeter! Take someone with you on your journey who will have your back along the way. And rejoice in your victory. Not just the major one at the end, but the little accomplishments along the way as well.
In my next post, I will be presenting some very unique moves you can easily fit into your daily schedule. Also, I will have a special gift for you to use to follow along and keep track of your progress! So stay tuned, and I’ll see you back again next week!