Motivation and willpower alone, often are not enough to change long-standing behaviours.
When you ﬁrst start a new health routine, you are full of enthusiasm and motivation – both naturally diminish with time. Imagine that your willpower is a reserve tank, and throughout the day every time you resist temptation, this empties your tank just a little, by the end of the day you may feel depleted, this is why most individuals derail from their new diet at night time). Which is why creating habits is vital. Our everyday behaviours are primarily dictated by our subconscious, think driving, typing on your phone, or even, brushing your teeth. We do not have to think too hard about such behaviours, because, these are well-trained habits.
By creating and solidifying new behaviours you will be creating and strengthening new neural pathways—therefore building new habits— allowing you to harness the power of your subconscious in establishing a new healthy lifestyle full of behaviours that won’t let you down when your motivation and willpower might.
But how to start? Now you know the psychology behind your behaviours, you can begin to set and monitor your routine, here are some of the strongest habits you can form and how to support these new behaviours so that they progress into solidiﬁed habits.
Set up new health behaviours such as exercise or yoga around your morning routine when you can. This is when your willpower and motivation tanks are naturally at their highest, starting your day with exercise has also been shown to increase adherence to healthy eating, as well as, boost workplace productivity, so its an all-round winner!
Not only this, but we have much more control over our morning than the rest of our day. You can choose to wake up a little before your family. Rising earlier and completing your workout before you start the day allows for damage control, so when your child is sent home sick from school, or, you are suddenly faced with a deadline that keeps you up till late – its ok because you have already completed your exercise for the day. Not only this but its time to yourself, exercise can be seen as quiet time away from your responsibilities. Looking at it this way may help motivate you to schedule this time out for yourself, rather than viewing it as purely exercise.
Make healthy meals ahead of time. At ﬁrst, this may seem like a chore, but try and dedicate two hours, twice a week, or the whole Sunday -ready for the work week, to meal preparation. Once you discover what dishes suit you best, make the eﬀort to repeat this every week for at least, around this time you will notice your prepping time is becoming quicker and feeling less chore-like as it becomes your new norm. Not only is meal prepping eﬃcient and cost-eﬀective, it will help you stay on track, for example, if you are oﬀered birthday cake at the oﬃce- but you have packed a lunch, it is a lot easier to turn down the cake, rather than waste your prepped meal. A healthy prepped dinner also means that when you’re exhausted from the day, stressed or emotional; you have your dinner waiting for you at home, there’s no need to pick-up a takeaway,
Behaviour Goals and Rewards
Whether we care to admit it or not, we are all susceptible to conditioning. In the same way, you would teach a child wrong from right, and encourage positive behaviour with a reward, consider creating your own non-food related reward system, based upon completing new health behaviours.
For example, try wearing a pedometer (often new phones have these built-in or Apps are available). The recommendation is 10,000-12,000 steps for a healthy adult. Once you have a daily step goal, you are more likely to ﬁnd yourself using the stairs or walking instead of driving to your destinations. Or, hang a monthly calendar on your wall and placing a large cross on each date you complete your exercise activity. The visual representation of breaking the chain by not being able to place a large ‘X’ over the date, acts as its own source of motivation and may provide that extra encouragement you were lacking that day to complete your activity. Additionally, this is a great way to track your
success, or if you didn’t do as well as you had hoped that month, you are presented with a whole fresh month, another chance to create the chain, another boost of motivation. And, once you have stuck to your new health behaviour(s) for a month it is time to reward yourself, as this is a massive accomplishment. Building a habit is the hardest part, maintaining it comes more naturally, so rewarding yourself with something that promotes your new lifestyle is vital (new work out clothes, a deep tissue massage, new trainers, a spa day, or a hot bubble bath for some examples)