hab∙it; n. 1. actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance; 2. an established disposition of the mind or character; 3. customary manner or practice
Behavioural change is hard.
So hard, in fact, that there’s an entire sub-discipline of psychology devoted to studying how best to develop new habits (as well as eventually ridding ourselves of the old).
What those studies tell us, in a nutshell, is that we’re doing it all wrong. Making grandiose resolutions, setting unattainable goals and generally, adopting an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. A mindset that ultimately leads to yo-yo dieting and empty February gyms.
If you’re looking to increase the odds of making those new health and fitness habits ‘stick’ try the following:
1. Choose a single, small habit to adopt. Practice it daily until it’s no longer a chore. This might take a week. It might take a month. Commit 100% to it’s practice. Remind yourself that you can do anything for a week or two. Once you’ve mastered it, choose another single, small habit to adopt. The trick is to retain the first habit while cultivating the second. And so on.
2. Associate that habit with contextual cues. Do it at the same time of day. Or in the same place. Use something to trigger it’s occurrence. For example, set your workout clothes out the night before. Put them on as soon as you get up. The clothes are your contextual reminder to head to the gym.
3. Reward yourself immediately. Humans are driven by positive rewards. The more immediate the reward, the stronger its effect on the likelihood that you’ll repeat the behaviour. Note that this doesn’t mean you need to buy yourself a pair of Fluevogs every time you successfully hit the gym. Try creating a ‘star’ chart. Once you’ve earned 10 stars, treat yourself to something special; a book, a manicure, movie night with a friend. Just make sure the reward doesn’t undermine the new habit; i.e. a piece of chocolate cake isn’t a great reward for successfully eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables 😉
4. Regularly reflect on your progress and adjust your approach, if necessary. For example, if eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the habit you’re trying to create, yet after a week or two of practice you only ever manage to eat 5, change your target habit to what you’re capable of repeatedly doing. Chances are those 5 servings are significantly greater than the 1-2 you were eating before. And once you’ve mastered this simplified version of the habit you’ll be ready to tackle the habit in its entirely.
5. Share your practice with others. Tell people what you’re intending to do and why. Enlist their support. Find an accountability tribe (in real life or online) and check in daily. Research shows keeping behavioural change a secret significantly reduces the likelihood of the new health and fitness habit ‘sticking’, thereby accounting for the popularity and success rates of group weight loss programs and exercise classes.
These are the exact same approaches I share with my personal training clients and the foundation of an all new online group training program I’m excited to share with you.
Introducing ‘8-Week Healthy Habits Bootcamp’
A two-month program to help you start (or get back to) daily exercise and adopt a handful of new health and fitness habits.
Included in the course are:
- 8 weeks of workouts, nutrition tips and mindset challenges
- Twice-weekly coaching emails to inspire, challenge and educate
- Membership in a private Facebook forum for motivation, accountability and support
- Access to a members-only exercise library containing demonstrations of all exercises and exercise modifications
- Unlimited e-support via Facebook (for queries of interest to the group) and e-mail (for questions of a more personal nature)
- Workouts are individually customizable, with exercise modifications appropriate for beginners, advanced-beginners and intermediate exercisers and for both gym-goers and home-exercisers alike (note that I don’t provide custom programs for participants, but instead, teach you how to choose the appropriate level of each exercise for your goals, fitness level and abilities)
- Optional one-on-one fitness coaching via e-mail, Skype or telephone (for added accountability, additional exercise modifications and video critique of form; not included in the cost of the course)
Click here for more details about the program, a link to the registration form and A’s to all of your Q’s.
Are there any particular new health and fitness habits you’re looking to adopt in 2015?