How many times have you justified stopping by your usually fast-food place by telling yourself, “It’s okay, I’ll start my diet tomorrow.” You’ve read up on the science of healthy habits. You’re determined to make a change, positive that this is the last burger combo you’ll have for a while.
Then tomorrow you find yourself in the same place, telling yourself the same thing you told yourself yesterday.
You have every intention of cutting fast food from your diet, exercising a few days each week, and getting enough sleep. You’ve bought the vitamins to supplement your diet, filled your fridge with fruits and vegetables, yet you still follow the same daily pattern.
Changing to health habits should be easy enough, you tell yourself. All you have to do is quit stopping by the drive-thru and make your dinner at home. It only takes 30 minutes per day, five days per week to reach your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise. But it’s a lot harder to make these changes in practice.
This is the true power of habits. These small, often unconscious decisions determine the outcome of your days, day after day. The longer you wait to change your habits, the more deeply ingrained they become. How can you use the science of healthy habits to your benefit and make a lasting change?
Understanding the Power of Habits
Your brain is powerful but it can only handle so many things at one time. It relies on habits to automate some of the more mundane tasks you do throughout the day. Think about how similar your daily life is compared to last week, last month, or even last year. No wonder the saying goes, “Humans are creatures of habit.”
Not all habits are harmful. There are plenty of helpful things you do automatically throughout the day. You brush your teeth and take a shower before heading to work or school every day. Hopefully, you try to go to bed around the same time each night.
Some habits aren’t as helpful, though. Maybe you’re used to the ease of takeout instead of spending time cooking. You might choose to watch tv at the end of the day rather than going out for a walk or heading to the gym.
Habits develop not only to make your brain’s job easier. They also form as a result of the “reward” you receive after completing the action. This reward can be as simple as feeling clean after taking a shower. It can also be the relief you feel when you eat a pint of ice cream after a stressful day.
You create a habit loop when you repeatedly carry out behaviors and receive a rewarding feeling. High-reward habitual behaviors, like eating ice cream or scrolling social media, are harder to break once they settle in. That doesn’t mean you can’t break them, though! The science of healthy habits can help.
Using the Science of Healthy Habits
Healthy habits might not feel as fun to practice at first. It’s faster to swing by the drive-thru after a long day at work than cook a meal for yourself at home. Going to the gym might not provide the immediate relief that turning on your favorite show does. But the science of healthy habits shows that the positive effects of these choices add up over the years.
What are some of the habits you can start working on?
Start Your Day Right
You’ve probably read an article or two about the power of a morning routine. It seems like every CEO has shared their particular set of practices they use to kick start their day. There’s some truth behind the effects of starting your day with a morning routine. Find some things that help you feel on track and set the pace for a positive, productive day.
Incorporate Some Exercise
Exercise is one of the most important healthy habits to incorporate in your life. It’s also one of the most intimidating habits to start up because most people assume it needs to be intense. You don’t need to run a marathon or lift heavy barbells to experience the benefits of exercise and the science of healthy habits, though. Going for a brisk walk, riding your bike, swimming a few laps, or at-home workouts are all great ways to get yourself moving. You’ll notice the positive results after only a few weeks!
Consider Your Food Choices
Like exercise, diet is another important but intimidating part of the science of healthy habits. Too many people think that making good food choices is about eating a salad every single day. It’s important to understand the between micronutrients vs. macronutrients and how both fit into your diet. Although salads are a fantastic way to get your greens in, there are many other fantastic foods to choose from, too.
Don’t Forget Your Mental Health
Your mental health is a vital part of your overall well being. If you don’t consider your mental health during this process, you’re going to shift back to old habits eventually. Incorporating the science of healthy habits like exercise and a well-rounded diet improves your mental health in the long run. Sometimes you’ll need to take a mental health day if you’re feeling stretched too thin. Unplug from your mundane day-to-day routine and recharge to get back in touch with yourself.
Investing in Your Health Now is Important
It’s not always easy to make the changes it takes to shift your habits. The more you wait, though, the harder it gets. Investing in your health now is important because it leads to positive long-term results. You’re more likely to stick with habits the longer they’re in place. Changing your unhelpful habits now makes it easier in the long run.
Once you experience the positives of the science of healthy habits for yourself, you’ll want to stick with them. Some days you might find your motivation isn’t there but you still do it once it becomes a habit. There’s no better time to start than today! What’s the first habit you’d like to change?