“People do not decide their futures; they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”F.M. Alexander
By Yajen Tan
We have all made a resolution at one point or another. I want to eat healthier, exercise more, sleep better, quit drinking ― the list goes on. But how often do those resolutions actually work out?
The key to reaching our goals is learning how to build habits that last. I am not talking about the habits that we decide to follow for only a few weeks. I am talking about the habits that will last us a lifetime.
So whether you are trying to eat healthier, move more or just get into bed on time, here are a couple of tricks to help you build lasting habits.
Start with baby steps
Whenever you start something new, building up momentum plays an important role in helping you reach your goals.
That means starting out small. Are you trying to lose weight? Start by cutting out one soda a day or taking a 10 minute walk during your lunch break. One small action is not likely to determine your success or failure, but it will get you started down the right path.
Cutting out one soda a day may lead to cutting out two sodas a day. Soon, you will become a little more mindful about the foods that you put into your body. Consistent baby steps over time can lead to big change.
Curate your environment
If you are hungry, what do you think will be the first thing that you reach for? Usually, the easiest and most convenient thing that you have lying around.
I am not saying that you will become a healthy eater just by buying some veggie sticks and salted nuts, but you are much less likely to munch on a bag of chips when you need to drive to the store just to pick them up.
When you are looking to change your habits, examine your surroundings to find out what you need to change.
Are you trying to cut down your alcohol intake? Stop showing up for the local bar’s daily happy hour. Are you eating too much junk food? Stop buying Cheetos every time you stop by the store.
Our environment is an extremely powerful determinant of our habits, so be mindful about what you allow into your surroundings.
Although I let myself enjoy a bag of chips when I really crave them on occasion, I make sure to set myself up for success by not leaving those snacks around the house.
Just keep going
Sometimes, people are too hard on themselves when they are trying to lose weight, start a new routine or accomplish something significant. I find myself in that camp every now and then.
Chasing down our goals is rarely a smooth ride. It is full of ups and downs, and that is just part of the process! The key is to take those baby steps that you started out with and build on top of them, one habit at a time.
Picture a kid learning how to ride a bike for the first time. How would you help them? You would start them out with training wheels so they get to experience what it feels like. Little by little, you would let them progress by taking off the training wheels, letting them ride a little faster and, eventually, moving off the parking lot and onto the road.
The same thing applies to building habits. We don’t start out by just jumping on the bike and feeling comfortable right away. We need to start small and build up, step by step, to get to what we are trying to achieve.
Remember this: if you just practice sticking to one single change each month, you can build 12 entire new habits by the end of the year. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas on how to improve your health and energy during this upcoming year.
- Wake up earlier by setting an evening alarm to go to bed.
- Charge your phone away from your bedside to stop yourself from scrolling all night.
- Get five minutes of exercise and sunlight outdoors when you first wake up in the morning.
- Find a partner to exercise with for 10-15 minutes per day.
- Do 30 repetitions of any exercise every day (push ups, squats or jumping jacks).
- Try playing a new sport.
- Drink a green smoothie daily to get more veggies.
- Drink one to two cups of water when you wake up.
- Research five healthy lunch spots near work.
- Do not consume caffeine after noon.
- Take a quick walk outdoors before opening up your laptop for work.
- Set a cutoff time to stop working in the evening.
If, after reading this, you have already decided to take that first step toward a new healthy habit, then you are already one step ahead of where you were just a moment ago. Keep it up!
Yajen Tan is a personal trainer and owner of Gimme Crossfit at 561 W. Arrow Highway in San Dimas. If you have health and fitness questions or would like to suggest topics to be covered in a future column, reach out to Yajen at email@example.com.
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