How to Make Healthy Habits Stick for Good

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

How many times have you given up an unhealthy habit and landed right back where you started? If you’re human, you've probably done this many times.

If you answered “that’s me,” don’t beat yourself up; you’re definitely not alone. Most of us want to adopt (and stick to) healthy habits, but few of us are able to do so consistently.

Well, hopefully this blog post will help change that once and for all. It's certainly worth a shot!

Don’t Believe The Lie of Motivation

You probably think that you’re different and simply not “motivated” like other people.

The truth is, however, that motivation fluctuates. It’s perfectly normal to be highly driven one week and rather apathetic the next. Psychologists have confirmed this phenomenon by studying human behavior.

So don’t waste time feeling bad about your fluctuating levels of motivation; this only makes you “more human.” Roll with it and adjust accordingly.

Write Down Your Goals

Have you ever written down your health-related goals? You probably think this sounds cheesy and unnecessary, but it actually works.

According to one study, people who wrote down their goals and shared updates with their friends on a weekly basis were 33% more likely to achieve them.1 Why is that?

Writing down your goals can help you focus and actually create a plan. Very often, those vague but brilliant ideas turn into solid plans sometime after they hit the pen and paper. Write them down!

Specify the When, Where, and How

It’s hard to achieve goals unless you have a solid plan of action. So to reach them, specify the when, where, and how. This is called implementation intention.

Specifying these parameters has been shown to improve the likelihood of people eating healthier, getting cancer screenings, and even using dietary supplements.2

Set Realistic Deadlines

If you don’t have a deadline at work, do you always get your work done on time? Probably not. And the same logic can be applied to you and your health goals.

Set deadlines, but make them realistic. You’re more likely to stick with a plan if it’s doable!

Get Support from Friends or Family

Friends give encouragement and make you accountable for your actions. And if they’re honest, they’ll give you the bitter truth.

If you have a friend that has similar goals, you’re in luck. Tackling your goals together can actually increase your chance of success.

Studies show that people who exercise together are more likely to stick to the program.3 So buddy up whenever possible in order to hit your goals.

Use Healthy Competition

Competition is a great motivator. For some reason, winning can really increase your self-esteem.

If you’re planning to lose weight or eat healthy, consider making it into a competition. Compete with friends, neighbors or even coworkers.

Why? Because research shows that competitive weight loss actually works.4 Apparently, the TV networks have already caught on to this. ;-)

Don’t Get Discouraged

You’re not going to be consistent 100% of the time, and that’s okay. When you’re good, reward yourself for the things that you have accomplished.

People respond better to reward than punishment when they need to change behaviors. So when you’re “bad,” please don’t beat yourself up.

What about You?

We’ve all been guilty of abandoning our health goals. What’s helped you stick to your own? Please share your take in the comments!

References:

  1. Available at http://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/study-backs-up-strategies-for-achieving-goals. Accessed June 19, 2013.
  2. J Occup Health Psychol. 2007 Oct;12(4):391-401.
  3. Available at: http://www.americanboardofsportpsychology.org/Portals/24/absp-journalanshel1.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2013.
  4. Obesity (Silver Spring).2012 Jul;20(7):1413-8.

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3 comments:

jill lackin said...

Ive always wanted to lose weight but never managed it until decided to do zumba 2yrs ago and now 4st lighter i feel fantastic just hope i dont put the weight back on x

LifeExtension said...

jill lackin - Taking zumba classes is one of the funnest ways to exercise. Consistency is the key to keeping the weight off. Good luck!

Galletta said...

I think one idea that has helped me more than any other is the idea of choices. We all have choices- healthy or not so healthy. Another concept is that of doing/making the healthy choice most of the time (80-90%) of the time and allowing ourselves to make less healthy choices on occasion. I think the basic idea is moderation is a good one. If you know that you can have that cookie, you won't crave it so much. One cookie won't ruin months of effort unless it leads to more bad choices.

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