Old habits die hard and trying to change your habits is a process that involves several stages. Sometimes it takes a while before these changes become new habits. And, you may struggle along the way.
However, it is essential to adopt new, healthier habits for your overall health as bad habits could result in serious health problems such as obesity and diabetes. In contrast, new habits such as healthy eating and regular exercise can help you to maintain a healthy weight and give you more energy.
Sticking with these healthy changes will hopefully mean that they become part of your daily routine and then turn into new daily habits.
So, how do you change your behaviour and make new habits?
Contemplation is the first stage of changing your habits, you’ve acknowledged you want to do something different, and you’re thinking about it. This is an excellent first step, and even if you’re not quite ready to start yet, that’s okay, perhaps you need some motivation to get going or you’re not sure how to do it. Asking yourself about the pros and cons of changing your habits is very useful, so think about how your life would change if you had healthier habits? What would be better? Maybe it's fitting into those old clothes again? Feeling more confident in yourself? Perhaps if you eat better, you'll find it easier to be physically active? Then there's the science and health part, such as knowing that eating healthily and exercising will help to control blood glucose and protect you from serious diseases. If you learn more about the benefits of changing your eating and physical activity habits, then this knowledge could help you to take action.
Once you’ve contemplated, then the next stage is to prepare for your new habits, so this will be when you’re making plans to start, perhaps you have been doing some research, bought a new recipe book or looked around the gym. You’re ready to go! But what do you do about those obstacles that get in the way? You need to make your new healthy habit a priority. It is vital to fit in exercise wherever you can, so this is where those age-old tips come in to play, taking the stairs and getting off the bus a stop early, can both help to increase your activity. Including exercise in your life doesn’t have to be expensive, walking or running around the park or streets is free. Just start small and build it up over time.
Then when it comes to eating, you can set aside a day to make healthy meals and freeze them, so that on those days when you don’t have time to cook, you’ll have something ready to go. All it takes is a little preparation really, getting up earlier to get your lunch ready to take to work, setting aside some time at the weekend to write a plan for the week and then spending some time getting some meals prepared for the week ahead. You can also eat healthy on a budget by buying in bulk choosing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables and even by planning you won’t have to spend money on expensive and unhealthy lunches when you’re hungry as you’ll be prepared and have something with you.
If you think you may struggle then get a friend to do it with you or join a Facebook group for support and tips on how to make healthier versions of your favourite food.
Next is the action stage where you start to make the changes; you are acting on your plan and making the changes you set out to achieve. In this stage, you will be adjusting to how it feels to eat healthier, being more active, and make other changes such as getting more sleep or reducing screen time. Start setting small, achievable goals so that you can put your plan into action. Start with small changes to get into the habit, for example walking for ten minutes, three times a week. Get into the habit of doing that first before you add to it. To stick with your new habits, you should review your plan, look at the goals you set and how well you are meeting them, plan for setbacks and reward yourself for your hard work
And finally, you will reach the maintenance stage. This is where you are in a new routine, you have become used to your changes and have kept them up, they have become a regular part of your routine, you have found creative ways to stick with your routine, and while you might have had setbacks or days when you have fallen off the wagon, you have been able to get past them, pick yourself up, move on and make progress.
Once you are ready to, you can have a look at your goals again and think about ways to expand them. For example, if you are comfortable walking five days a week, then try running or add some strength training in at the end of one or two of your walks. These small changes can lead to healthy habits that are worth keeping.
Once you have started these healthy habits you will see the benefits such as having more energy, improved health, you will have lowered your risk for health problems, you will find that you are maintaining a healthy weight and not only that, but you will feel very proud of yourself.
You’ll also find that these new habits are a lot of fun and you will have probably met new people along the way and made new friends.
It is also essential to make time to relax too – but what you will find when you start doing more, is that you time to do more. It sounds off, but it’s true. You will become more productive and will find time to rest and enjoy the rest more than you would have before. You need to allow yourself time to recover, but the healthier you become, the quicker this will be.
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