Building Healthy Habits
Breaking out of unhelpful patterns can be difficult. Sometimes the more mundane a habit is, the more difficult it is to shake.
“I Don’t Know How to Start”
The most common phrase people give when trying to change a habit is: I don’t know where to start. And they’re right—taking conscious action to change a behavior is very difficult. It takes persistence and knowledge, but with adequate support, you can change your behavior and optimize your daily life.
Making Small Changes
Change is all about baby steps. Doing too much too soon may backfire . Instead, doing something small each day, in increments, will make you more successful in the long run. Make your first steps impossible to fail, giving you the confidence you’ll need in the future.
The Science Behind Starting New Habits
Although changing a learned behavior can be a daunting task, we find that our patients often respond better when they’re aware of the science behind adopting new habits.
The famous experiments with Pavlov’s dogs taught us a lot about learning and conditioning behavior. We function in much the same way as those dogs, falling into patterns that become biologically difficult for us to overcome. The goal here is to find what is stimulating our negative behaviors, and finding replacement behaviors we can implement instead.
Taking Conscious Action
Many of our negative behaviors are done mindlessly. You come home, take off your shoes, open a bag of chips, sit on the couch. They become automatic and comfortable. In order to affect change, you have to proceed throughout your day mindfully, paying attention to your learned habits and to the opportunities you have to make alternative choices.
When you want to train a pet, you give them a treat. Humans are not that far off. We do things because we expect rewards, so giving yourself a reward when you accomplish a positive behavior is an easy way to rewire your brain. Even mixing up the order of tasks you complete can go a long way towards sustaining energy throughout the work day.
Habits and Sleep
Changing your bedtime habits can increase your quality of sleep, which then translates into more joyful and productive days. Waking up at the same time each day, for instance, gives your body a cycle it can repeat effortlessly.
Furthermore, avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening—they affect your ability to fall asleep and achieve REM sleep. Also, avoid heavy meals two to three hours before going to sleep. These simple habits can do wonders for your sleep cycle.
What Are The Barriers To Change?
Why is it so difficult to change negative behaviors? The reality is, we are hardwired to maintain routines and old habits.
If you’re a busy professional, time is not something you have in excess. Most of the time, people perform the same negative habits over and over again because it’s faster than introducing a new, more positive behavior. However, making time for new habits is essential in behavioral change, and with professional guidance, you can identify when and how to create time for meaningful change.
Old habits help us avoid anxiety. They’re easy to fall back into, and difficult to get rid of. The best answer to this barrier is knowledge and educating yourself. By knowing how these habits make themselves a permanent part of your life, you can then determine the best course of action to stop performing them all the time and start taking action to introduce more positive behaviors.
Everything we do on a daily basis has a consequence, and the ones you are willing to accept in the moment are often the actions you take. For instance, you might prioritize a business meeting you have in the evening. You might be missing out on a social gathering with friends, or getting the deserved rest you need. Being more aware of the consequences attached to each action will make you think twice about what you need to prioritize to enhance your health and wellbeing.
Confidence & Knowledge
When you’re not sure about how to make change, or you don’t feel comfortable in a new situation, it can be tough to select healthy options. For instance, people who want to make healthy changes to their diet often don’t know where to start or how to cook food that feels unfamiliar to them. With professional help, you can learn the skills you need and build confidence in yourself to help you make positive changes in your life that feel good and fit your lifestyle.
Do you know people who are living healthy lifestyles? It’s difficult to start making changes on your own, but if you look around, you should find people who already have healthy habits you want to emulate. Talk to them, join them, and build a support network that can help you rise to your potential and provide the support you need when you feel like reverting back to old habits.
If you feel anxious or depressed on a daily basis, you’ll find it’s difficult to muster the energy to make healthy changes. For those with mental health conditions, extra support and insight are often necessary to achieve your behavioral changes. With a professional diagnosis and treatment, you’ll discover you have the energy and motivation to start your journey towards health and wellbeing.
Two Ways To Include New Practices
Here are two practical paths toward healthier habits.
Change takes time. You don’t need to be a different person tomorrow. By starting with small changes, you’ll guarantee yourself success. If you want to improve your eating habits, start by including a healthy option once every two days, or if you want to start exercising, you can begin with something as simple as stretching in your living room. Start at your own pace, and if you’re consistent, you’ll notice improvements quickly.
If you’re focused on a new positive behavior, and have taken the time to write it down in your schedule, you’re much less likely to ignore it. Pencil in a workout or reading time in your busy schedule and stick to it. With time, you’ll find that you won’t have to purposefully include the positive behavior in your agenda—you’ll do it automatically and likely even look forward to it. This is the power of changing habits.
Here at IntraBalance, we believe creating positive habits for yourself is an important step toward health and wellbeing. If you seek support in making meaningful changes to your daily life, call us to set up a consultation where we can talk about your needs in specific detail and create a path to overcome the barriers that may be holding you back.