Creating healthy habits doesn’t have to be hard or scary. In this article we’ll explore three simple steps how to make these habits stick.
So tell me: do you have a morning routine? The truth is, you do. Even if it’s not the routine you WISH you had. And the same is true for habits. We all have habits:
- What time do you wake up? Do you get up with an alarm or on your own? Do you hit the snooze button or get up right away?
- Do you brush your teeth as soon as you wake up or after your morning coffee? Do you start brushing your teeth on the top or the bottom?
- Do you shop for groceries multiple times a week, once a week, or a few times a month?
- Do you regularly exercise? At home or at a gym? In the morning, at lunch, or after work?
How habits work:
- There is a trigger
- The trigger showcases a need
- There is a response to the need (this is the habit)
- You get a reward
Let’s use the example of brushing your teeth:
- Trigger: You wake up in the morning and then drink coffee
- Need: You want to get rid of your morning and coffee breath
- Response: You brush your teeth
- Reward: Clean teeth and fresh breath
Creating Healthy Habits:
Here’s the deal with creating new habits (and this will sound obvious, but): the easy ones stick.
There are two types of habits. The first is a new habit you want to add to your current lifestyle, and the second is a habit you want to break.
If you’re trying to create a new habit, stack the odds in your favor.
For example: if you want to exercise more, don’t join a gym that’s 30 minutes away. Better yet: exercise at home! (Unless staying home to exercise causes too many distractions.) But the key here is to do everything in your power to make this new habit easy to do as often as possible. Maybe you need to set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to drink more water. Or you put your workout clothes next to your bed so you don’t have to spend time looking for them in the morning if you’re trying to create a new morning exercise routine.
If you’re trying to ditch a habit you already have: make it hard to keep it up
For example: If you want to eat less processed foods and sugar, don’t keep those foods in the house. If you’re prone to stopping for takeout on the way home from work, try a new route so that you don’t drive by the tempting spot. You do have control over your current habits.
Not every habit has instant gratification (like brushing your teeth).
First, realize that the new habit may take time to develop fully. Second, if it will take time to create the healthy habit, consider identifying some micro-habits to celebrate along your way to success! Perhaps each month that you successfully complete your new morning exercise routines, you treat yourself to a new piece of workout gear. That’s a great example of a mini-reward (that also keeps you excited to continue your new habit).
Creating Healthy Habits Means Understanding Your Identity
So here is where we dive deep. Because you can have the best intentions around creating healthy habits, but if your identity surrounding said habits doesn’t align with the one you’re trying to make, I’m sorry to say that: You will not have long-term success.
It all has to do with your subconscious mind because that drives the bus of your behaviors, habits, and (yes:) identity.
As you begin to change and embrace new habits, your subconscious mind notices your identity shifting, and it FREAKS OUT. Why? Because your subconscious mind NEEDS to be right. All the time. If you don’t change how you identify, your subconscious will win (it always does) and cause you to self-sabotage.
So, what’s a human to do? We need to learn to create a new identity around the habits we want to make.
Make that identity a non-negotiable regarding your new habits.
The first step is to identify: what do I tell myself about this new habit I’m trying to create? Do I put myself down? Tell myself that I’m terrible at it? This is how our subconscious mind hijacks our best of intentions.
You have to go a step further. You need to not only create a new identity that aligns with your new healthy habit, you also need to make that new identity non-negotiable.
- Jen wants to quit smoking
- Jen tries creating an identity as a “non-smoker”
- Creating this vague identity allows Jen to still sneak cigarettes because she can convince herself that having one here and there doesn’t qualify her as “a smoker”
- Creating a new identity as someone with “pink, healthy lungs” tells her subconscious that her body won’t tolerate cigarettes. So even “sneaking” cigarettes isn’t something that she will even consider
“Habits define who you’re being at a certain moment in time; they don’t define who you ARE.”Jen Sincero
Take some time to explore what identities you have around the habits you’re looking to create. And know that you always have the ability to change.
Do you tell yourself that you’re a terrible cook when you are desperate to start doing more home cooking? That’s the identity that needs to change. Maybe you tell yourself that you are someone who finds joy in exploring new recipes – even when they don’t always turn out exactly right.
What else do you need to explore and possibly shift? This is undeniably one of the most powerful tools in creating healthy habits that will last!
Creating Healthy Habits = Creating Healthy Boundaries
“Habitually setting good boundaries lays the groundwork for all other habits.”Jen Sincero
Just like when we want to create new habits and our subconscious mind gets in the way, sometimes, when we set boundaries, other people don’t respect them. Here are three reasons why:
- They no longer get to be right about who you are/the identity they have for you. You’ve gone from a known to an unknown – and now their subconscious is freaking out.
- You’re showing them that change is possible. Maybe they feel guilty that they’re not also changing. Perhaps they resent you for doing what they’re not willing to do.
- They’re afraid of losing you.
But let’s be honest. Other people aren’t always the only ones to blame; we also mess up our boundaries. Here are three ways YOU do that:
1. Your Boundaries are Too Leaky
When you have leaky – or soft – boundaries, you say yes to everything to avoid confrontations, disappointing others, appearing selfish or missing out on the chance to feel needed and important.
How to say no:
- “It’s me, not you:
- Keep the emotion out of it. You are responsible for your end of the conversation, not how those around you respond.
- Use straightforward language:
- I need X. I won’t X. I can’t X. I don’t like X. I’m going to X. I’d appreciate it if X.
- Also: “No thanks.”
- Give yourself a cushion:
- “I can’t decide right now. Let me think about it.”
If this is you, I want you to practice who you will respond to this way by talking to them while looking in the mirror.
2. Your Boundaries are Too Rigid
When your boundaries are too rigid, you say no to everything for fear of being seen, disappointed, judged, inadequate, needy, or hurt. We also fear disappointing others, and we put up a wall to hide behind instead of creating a boundary that allows us to flourish.
Say yes even when it feels cringey:
- Remember, you’re the star of your own life:
- People aren’t as afraid of your emotions as much as YOU are fearful of your feelings.
- Speak your mind, and articulate your needs
- It’s okay to be vulnerable
- Accept that communicating well is hard work
- Admit to others that this is hard for you, but you’re working at opening up.
3. Your Boundaries = Trying to Control Others
When this boundary is dominant, you try to control other people, get them to take on your problems, or become overly involved with their problems. You may also seek out those who will enable you or become an enabler because you don’t want to fix your own life. You want to feel in control, needed, loved, and not alone.
How to surrender to what is:
- Sometimes silence is the best response:
- Practice listening instead of offering advice and suggestions.
- Learn to ask: “Do you need help?” and “Are you looking for advice, or are you just looking for someone to listen?”
- Learn to speak with and listen to more than just voices:
- Read the other person’s body and verbal cues
- Do what is asked, even if that means backing off.
Realize that you may be all 3 of these in various aspects of your life or with different people/relationships:
- I can be too leaky with some friends and work relationships.
- I can be too rigid in my family relationships.
- I can be too controlling as a mother.
“Boundaries are not rigid walls. They breathe and move with the complexities of life and the nuances of each situation.”Jen Sincero
Take some time to explore your boundaries and how they may get in the way of creating the healthy habits you desire.
If you’re looking to create some healthy habits but don’t know where to start, you may want to start with this Simple Self Care Guide.