We all have a vision in our heads of who we want to be. Some of us want to be active and fit, be pain-free from any type of chronic pain conditions, surrounded by loving and supportive people, and be working a job that we love going to every day.
You are definitely not alone in those wants. North Americans spend billions of dollars per year on self-improvement books and different products. Unfortunately, many people just don’t see much if any improvement in their health and wellbeing.
So What’s Going On?
There are multiple reasons why you may not be seeing the results you are wanting or expecting.
You could be trying to tackle too much at once, being too hard on yourself, or even just unsure of how to take that first step into changing your health and wellbeing.
Keep in mind that to get healthier it takes effort, planning and a lot of patience.
Here are some strategies to help you make those healthy habits stick:
1. Begin with Cognitive Goals
When people set out in their goals to improve their health, often times they will think about taking action. Eating better, meditating, walking/running more. The truth is, however, that getting healthier starts in your head.
If you’re not feeling ready to start taking an action step forward, don’t worry. Focus on cognitive goals.
This is where you will gather information, consider your options, think about the benefits of the change you want to make versus staying in the same situation you’re in and begin to map out how you will integrate the new healthy behaviors you want in your life.
In time you’ll feel ready to take that action step forward and the cognitive work that you’ve put in will pay off.
2. Shifting Your Focus to the Long-Term
There are many different short-term solutions, such as a seven day cleanse or 20-day fitness craze.
These though, are designed to jumpstart a healthy living habit and produce rapid results in the short term. These aren’t going to work for the long term, and the long term is where you want to be.
When you are looking to get healthy it isn’t about seeing and getting a taste of your ideal self for just a couple weeks and then going back to your old ways. It’s about creating a change that is sustainable.
You’ll want to take into consideration behaviors you can start that you will be more likely to stick to over the long term. This will avoid the feeling of efforts lost and create the benefits of a long term, sustainable healthy living habits.
3. Understand that Small Steps Make for Big Victories
You often hear in advertisements quick and easy ways to become healthy.
You will need to get that out of your head and remember that slow and steady wins the race. The best ways to move towards your goals with success are small incremental steps.
For instance, maybe you what to start being more physically active.
Start with a ten-minute walk around the block for a few times a week. Or maybe you want to reduce stress. You can start meditating for 5 minutes two or three times a week. This sounds too easy, but that is the point.
Over time you can start to increase the distance and time duration of your walks. You can increase the number of days and duration of time over the week for meditating.
This gets you started in a task that may seem daunting but over time you’ve built yourself up to where you want to be with your healthy habits.
4. Picking Actions that Matter
All efforts in getting healthy are meaningful, but some actions help to better your health more directly.
Take the example of parking your car farther away from the store doors. The intent might be to increase the amount that you are walking per day but at some point this plateaus (since you can only park so far away and shop so often).
Let’s look at an alternative strategy.
In this example, let’s say that you want to work towards working out at the gym for one hour 5 days a week. You will want to develop steps that allow you to build upon to reach that goal instead of just jumping right in and doing the 5 days a week.
The first step is joining the gym. From there you might want to start going to the gym once a week for 15 minutes then increase this to 20 minutes twice a week and so on.
These make your goal easy to accomplish in steps and build upon to reach your goal. They are the building blocks to getting to the larger store.
5. Don’t Rely on Your Motivation
Motivation is important in building our healthy habits, but we all know that it can come and go. You won’t always be able to depend on your motivation.
In the beginning, you may find a high drive and motivation for your healthy habit goals but over time it will likely wear off and you will need to put other systems into place in order to keep you on track.
The key to overcoming that low motivation when it comes is to anticipate it and set up some strategies in advance that will help you cope and keep going. Some things you can do are:
- Post reminders.
- Ask for social support.
- Create a backup plan.
- Remind yourself that your motivation can plummet and that you will just need to push through and keep going.
- Remember that your motivation will return. Especially when you start to feel the benefits of your new behaviors.
6. Be Accountable to Yourself
People will often work hard and are more likely to achieve goals when they feel they are accountable to someone.
This could be a mentor, coach, family member, friend, or a work buddy. Having other people to be accountable to can help you give that necessary push when it’s needed to get stuff done.
However, you are ultimately responsible for your behavior.
The most powerful accountability partner is yourself.
It would be better to set up a system that you will regularly be able to track your own progress rather than relying on other people. You might want to look at what has helped you to succeed and what has put you off track.
Remember to reward yourself when things go well and don’t beat yourself up if you go off course.
As time goes on you will start to notice patterns of what holds you back in your progress and what needs to be put into place in order for you to make those healthy choices. Recognize that you have the most knowledge and experience about yourself to help you set yourself up for success, even though it is helpful to have other people for accountability.
7. Find the Joy
Living a healthy life shouldn’t feel like such a burden and so much work. If it does make you feel that way then you are most likely to not stick with the new behaviors you have put into place for too long.
Rather than taking the generic route to health that is recommended by so many, take some time to figure out what you can do to support a more healthy life that at the same time fits your personality, empowers and excites you.
When you design your goals around things that you love to do, such as activities that are fun, it will help to stop in requiring so much effort. When you find your joy in living healthy, the lifestyle will stick.