How can you change your life? One habit at a time.
Yes, it's that easy.
You already have plenty of habits in place. Think about it. What are the things you do every single day, without having to plan or remember? I'll give you some examples: brush your hair, floss your teeth, walk your dog, feed your goldfish, drink your coffee, drive to work, check your email, watch TV, set your alarm, and the list goes on. There are loads of things you never forget to do.
So why is it so hard to remember to drink enough water? Or take your vitamins? Or get to the gym?
Well, it's not. You just have to make each of these things into another one of your daily habits.
1) How do you make something a habit? It certainly helps if you can do the action every single day, at the same time, in the same place, in the same way. And it will be way easier to make it a habit if you can link the new action to something that is already an established pattern in your life.
For example, if I want to drink a liter of water in the morning before I leave to go teach my classes, I usually fill my water bottle and bring it with me while I walk the dog. The walk takes place every single morning, no matter what day it is, no matter what the weather is. If I bring the water with me, I can drink and walk simultaneously (I am highly skilled that way), killing two birds with one stone. Voila, instant habit! (I just have to remember to fill my water bottle and bring it!)
2) Is there a habit you would like to break? Do you hit the drive-thru for burgers and fries on the way home from work every day? If you want to break yourself of a bad habit, you need to replace it with a better habit. Drive home from work a different way. Instead of hitting the fast food window, go to the park for a brisk walk before heading home. Or hit the gym. Or the salad bar. Decide on the best habit for you. And the best habit is the one you will actually do.
3) It is much more likely you will implement the new habit if you only change ONE THING AT A TIME. Decide what you can handle. Don't join a new gym, bring home a puppy, start a new diet, and sign up for an evening class all at the same time. You will end up with chewed furniture, poop on the floor, a headache, and an empty wallet. Better to change one small thing. Commit to taking your vitamins every single day. (This is one habit that I have yet to make stick. I am open to suggestions!) Or drinking 3-4 liters of water. Or walking a mile.
4) How long does it take to establish a new habit? Experts usually say about a month. So give each new habit at least 30 days to become a part of your life before you try to add something else. Yes. A full month.
5) Keep in mind that starting a new diet means changing your habits EVERY TIME YOU EAT. This is multiple times per day (I hope!) so it is not surprising that people fail. If you are looking to change the way you eat, start with one meal per day. Decide on a healthy breakfast and stick with it for a month. Don't worry too much about lunch, dinner, and snacks. When your healthy breakfast is a habit, then move on to improving lunch.
6) Save the hardest changes for last. If you know that giving up sugar or alcohol or meth (just kidding!) is going to be tough for you, start with an easier switch. And remember to replace that candy bar or can of soda with a better alternative. Find a healthy power bar that you enjoy or drink a bottle of sparkling water. Convince yourself that you are simply having a NEW treat, not denying yourself the old one.
See? Habits are not that difficult to establish. After all, you already have tons of them in place. Give them a tiny tweak and you will be on your way to a healthy lifestyle in no time flat. Please share your experiences (what works and what doesn't) so we can all benefit from what you learn.