How to turn positive changes into lasting habits
As we embark on a fresh new year we often get swept up in the impulse to create big change… but how often do these habits stick? If you’re nodding in agreement, you are in excellent company. When they fall away we’re left feeling flat and down on ourselves so this year, let’s do things differently. Let’s harness this positive inclination to nourish our health but in a way that feels both do-able and genuinely sustainable. After all, we’ve just been through an ordeal of a year and we could all do with an extra big dollop of compassion.
Follow these 5 tips to help make lasting healthy habits.
1. Reduce the number of choices in your day
We all know what we need to do to feel healthy and energetic but let’s be honest, it’s another thing to make it happen. Part of the challenge in making healthy choices is the sheer number of decisions we are faced with. It can be relatively simple to take the healthy option in the morning but by afternoon we’re caving and by evening, forget it! One way to help us make the helpful choice more often is to reduce the number you face daily. Simplify life by identifying 5 work or weekday outfits and alternating between them. Choose 3 different options for yourself for breakfast or map out 7 different family dinners and make sure you keep your home stocked up. Commit to a time of day to exercise. Write out a soothing pre-bedtime ritual and refer to it so you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel. It’s not about being rigid, it’s about creating rhythm and regularity to your day and minimising willpower and decision making fatigue.
2. Dial down temptation
From morning to night we are faced with juicy temptation… treats we’ve bought for the kids, ads plastered on TV and in our favourite magazines, product placements in our favourite films, ads dotted through our social media feed and those pesky mail-outs reminding us of the next hot deal. Turn down the noise by carefully selecting who you follow, where you get your news, unsubscribing from distribution lists and keeping healthy alternatives to those indulgences that maybe you just can’t say no to - you’re not alone.
3. Get clear on your WHY
It’s not enough for us human beings to know what we want to do, we have to get clear on the WHY for change to stick. It’s useful to reflect on how we want to take care of ourselves, to think about the kind of concrete changes we’d like to make, but these things seldom motivate us enough on their own. It’s ok if you don’t care about sleep as such. It’s ok if cooking or healthy eating doesn’t float your boat. You don’t have to love exercise… what you do care about is all the amazing and deeply purposeful things that sleep, nutrition and movement facilitate in your life! So before you commit to making change, spend some time thinking about why you want to do it. Be clear on how this action allows you to show up in life as you aspire to, for ourselves and to model healthy habits for our children. Write down these ideas, forming your own personal ‘why’. Knowing your why will galvanise you when life squeezes you, and in motherhood, we know this is par for the course. Your why will help you overcome setbacks, get creative in the face of obstacles and it will help you dial down temptation even further.
4. Start with ripples
Forget sweeping change. Save the grand and elaborate plans for when you are feeling energetically topped up. We’ve just experienced a very depleting year and it may take some time to feel like your ‘old self’ again before you can even think about making a ‘new’ one… but really, there is no need. The best way to make sustainable change is in small increments. Choose one aspect of health or life or skill to address at once – think along the lines of creativity, rest/relaxation, sleep, mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, movement, connection, nutrition, hydration, or your career. The next step is to break it down into tiny waves of change. It could be creating one energising ritual to greet the day or a calming practice to prepare for sleep. If you want to clean up your eating, work on one meal of the day until it’s on auto pilot before addressing the next. Keep it simple and keep it evolving. This is how we learn and grow.
5. Forgive, forgive, forgive
Contrary to popular belief, rather than judgement and punitive self-talk, cultivating self-forgiveness boosts your willpower! If you want to make healthy choices more often, forget self-flagellation. Move over inner critic, get to know your inner elder. She is just waiting for you to hear her gentle coaxing and encouragement. Cut yourself some slack, forgive yourself when you fall short of your ideals and you might find yourself straight back on the wagon rather than having to wait for a fresh new day. This might fly in the face of what you’ve been lead to believe but take a look for yourself – does berating yourself help you step up? Does it help you stick to your guns? No. It adds to our stress levels. It lowers our self-esteem. Every barbed word makes you more likely to hit the self-sabotage button, so let’s just not. It may be a difficult habit to break, but you can. We can do hard things. And we can reap the benefits too. Kind, compassionate words that you would extend to a friend, it’s time to send some of them your own way.
Watch what blooms. We’re cheering you on!
About the author: Suzy Reading
Suzy is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, Best Selling Author and Wellbeing Coach. She is also a core member of the Nourish Contributing & Founding Team. Suzy specialises in maternal well-being, helping mums manage their emotions, energetic bank balance and the unique stresses of motherhood.
Suzy has written three books – The Self-Care Revolution: Smart Habits & Simple Practices to Allow You to Flourish, The Little Book of Self-care: 30 Practices to Soothe the Body, Mind and Soul, and Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness and Self-Care for Children and Parents.
On the Nourish app, you will find over 50 nourishing tools (incl. 27 short videos) from Suzy, ranging from mindfulness and self-compassion basics, to breathing exercises, to dynamic yoga sequences, to mind based coaching activities. Suzy specialises in helping us find those micro moments to dot through our day.