Home Commentary Struggling to Hardwire Good Habits? Here’s How.

Struggling to Hardwire Good Habits? Here’s How.

Community Voice Nicole Webb Bodie

In my last column, I talked about the value of positive habits. I don’t think anyone would argue that good habits are anything but, well, good.

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But recognizing their value is much easier than actually hardwiring them into your daily life.

Even with the best intentions, most attempts to eliminate bad habits and replace them with productive ones don’t last long.

There are plenty of reasons why it’s tough to make good habits stick.

Chances are, you’re familiar with most of them and so am I:

+You just don’t have enough motivation.

+You keep forgetting.

+The habit is more challenging than you were anticipating.

+It’s taking too long to see a payoff.

+The habit doesn’t mesh well with your pre-existing routines (such as getting up early to work out!).

+Could it be self-doubt or lack of confidence?

So how do you push through whatever obstacles are standing between you and positive new habits?

Over the years, I’ve identified some best practices that work for me —and I’d like to share them with you:

Work on changing one habit at a time… If you are like me, the list of habits you’d like to accumulate is long and varied. It might range from drinking a glass of water each morning to creating and prioritizing a daily to-do list before your workday starts to walking 20 minutes each evening.

None of these tasks seem overly demanding, so you might try implementing all three simultaneously.

But I’d encourage you not to overwhelm yourself by trying to start them all at once. I have found it hard to be successful when trying to do them all. Instead, pick one habit and focus on that. Allow yourself to get some momentum. Then, once you’re on solid footing, move to your next change.

And start small. When I say, “choose one habit to start with,” I mean something that’s realistic—even simple—to do. As you first begin to change your daily habits, you’ll want to go for the low-hanging fruit first. This will allow you to get some wins, boost your confidence, and become familiar with the habit-changing process before moving on to bigger challenges. So, start with taking a vitamin each morning—leave reading more books (and scrolling less) for later.

Make sure the habit is relevant and beneficial to you. It’s surprising how often we all decide to change a habit because it’s something we think we should be doing (especially in the age of influencers).

Take a moment and ask yourself: Am I unhappy with this area of my life? How will this habit help me? Is this my priority or someone else’s?

“Stack” the habit on top of something you already do. Let’s consider the “drink a glass of water each morning” example. Do you already drink a cup of coffee, tea, protein shake, etc. each morning? If so, make a rule that you can’t have your normal morning beverage until you’ve drunk a glass of water. You might even post a note on the coffeemaker: “Drink H2O first!”

By making the new habit conditional on a part of your routine that’s second nature, you make it more likely that you won’t forget or skip it.

Get really clear on what the new habit looks like. It’s not enough for me to say, “I want to walk 20 minutes each evening.” This goal is too vague for me. Where will I walk? At what point in the evening will I do it? What happens if it’s raining? When are my   “cheat days”? If you are like me, each of these unanswered questions adds to your mental load when it’s time for the rubber (of your sneakers) to meet the road, making it more likely that you’ll choose to stay on the couch after all.

When I have a clear plan in place, there are fewer uncertainties and loopholes standing in my way: “I’ll walk to the park and back before prepping supper. If the weather is bad, I’ll find a short YouTube yoga class. I’ll give myself two ‘nights off’ each week.”

Break the habit into smaller steps. This is how I tackle bigger (and often more challenging) habits. One of the most common habits I hear people saying they’d like to change is “eat a healthier diet.” But that’s not implementing one habit.

That’s hardwiring a lot of little habits, and probably breaking some bad ones as well. To be successful, make it as granular as you can: Plan meals and make grocery lists ahead of time. Cut out or reduce one unhealthy food type at a time. Start eating one vegetarian meal a week. Eat out only once a week. Then, as I mentioned before, focus on doing one step at a time until you become comfortable with it.

Don’t be paralyzed by trying to get it perfect. Just start. You may have to tweak your process along the way, and that is okay! Don’t wait for the new pair of tennis shoes to start exercising or the cute little vitamin holder to start your daily dose.

Not all my habits are “Instagram worthy.” For example, maybe you want to lower your monthly bills. Start by turning off all the lights before you leave the house. (I am still working on this one!)

When it comes to infusing new habits into your life, “slow and steady wins the race” should be your motto.

It’s human nature to want to see meaningful gains fast, but that’s just not how behavior change works. Ultimately, wouldn’t you rather develop a “small” but lasting habit, instead of abandoning a complex resolution before it gets off the ground? Remember, big lifestyle changes are made up of lots of little tweaks to our routines, choices, and actions.

Be sure to check back here for my next Community Voices article, I’ll be focusing on specific habits I developed to make my life more streamlined and less stressful.

Nicole Webb Bodie

Partner, Healthcare Plus Solutions Group

www.HealthcarePlusSG.com

Contact me at Nicole@HealthcarePlusSG.com

*Note from Local Pulse Editor: Nicole Webb Bodie is a part of our Community Voices series. Community Voices is a group of Pensacola dwellers that are making a difference in our city by sharing best practices, experiences, their perspective on impactful subjects, and contributing expertise that leads to movement forward for a stronger community.