By: Jake Pain
In this article:
New Year has just come into its ownand you may be thinking about developing new healthy habits to improve your health and quality of life.
The start of the year is often a milestone for people trying to make a difference in their lives in ways that are likely to get them out of their comfort zone and overcoming difficulties. Such attempts to start a new life often involve exercise or nutritious food, but their value is limited by the person’s will to continue doing it. Too often we set ourselves vague high “goals” without really thinking about how difficult it is to develop the habits necessary to achieve those goals.
For example, a person says, “I will start going to the gym five days a week and go on a new diet.” Such an aspiration is wonderful, but it is not so difficult to guess what happens to most of those who press the pedal to the floor in a month. They are throwing.
In this article, we’ll discuss what habits really are, set up a system for reinforcing good habits in a more realistic way, and highlight some great habits that are really worth trying to reinforce.
What are habits?
It may be hard to believe, but there is no single correct definition of habit. Various studies have given the word “habit” different shades of meaning, depending on how you intend to work with the concept.
As a coach, I like this definition: “Habit is the process by which a stimulus generates an impulse to action, caused by a learned stimulus-response association.” Basically, this means that people’s fixated habits are just a product of learned cue chains, and this option works perfectly in the field of fitness and healthy eating. It can also be incredibly helpful in separating the new habits that a person is trying to reinforce from everyday life.
How? A person’s behavior is often greatly influenced by mood and its ups and downs – because of this, when habits are fixed and subconsciously associated with certain behaviors, there is a possibility of developing an unhealthy attitude towards new habits, which can potentially lead to the formation of negative behavior patterns.
For example, if, when trying to reinforce a habit of going to the gym or eating a slightly healthier diet, a person does it only when he feels happy and motivated, he may form an association of these new habits with precisely this behavior and sense of self. This should be avoided by separating behavior and habits, because day after day does not have to – new habits should not depend on too many conditions.
As for the process of fixing new habits itself, it is somewhat more complicated, since it cannot be reduced to a simple “start doing something new”. When creating new habits, you need to maintain an objective attitude towards your reaction to various signals and select options that will work for you.
According to research findings, in the context of health, habitual behavior can often be divided into three categories.
- Habits that are habitually activated, but consciously executed.
- Habits that are consciously activated but performed habitually.
- Habits that are activated and executed habitually.
The first category includes putting on your running shoes when it’s been done for days immediately after waking up, and then making the conscious decision to go for a run. The second category is, for example, the decision to go to the gym regularly. This is initially a conscious decision, and for many, when they come to the gym, an automatic process is launched to complete the assigned workout. The third category is, for example, “stress seizing” with not very healthy foods. This is an unconscious decision caused by an unconscious stimulus.
It can be seen that each of these categories includes the habitual beginning of some action, which should lead to the desired result. This is why it is so important to create a signal chain to follow realistic habits based on achievable goals.
As you continue to read this article, try to think about what habits you would like to form in the new year, and then use the system we are discussing to organize signals that work for you personally. It should be understood that habits are fixed differently for each person, but signals work in a similar way.
How to Form a New Habit
New fitness habits can be very different, which is why it is so important to highlight the specific elements that matter – and think realistically about what you want to achieve.
- Perhaps you want to go to the gym more often?
- Perhaps you want to build five pounds of muscle?
- Perhaps you want to run your first marathon this year?
All of these goals are great and can help you start a new fitness habit, but they don’t really help pave the way for achieving them or form a realistic basis for the desired habits.
Reinforce new habits step by step
Let’s take a look at one of the examples above to understand how new fitness habits should be formed.
To keep things simple, let’s say you want to start hitting the gym at least three times a week and last through 2021. This is a serious goal if you never went there before, especially when you consider that in order to fulfill it, you need to dramatically increase the number of classes from 0 to 152. Such a number will make anyone dizzy, especially if there is no plan.
Instead of trying to grasp the immensity, divide the goal into three segments. Set a high, medium, and low goal that will help you gently adjust to new habits while generating cues to maintain stable habits.
Here’s a possible example of similar goals:
- Minimum goal: Go to the gym once a week for the first month and do two light 20-minute workouts at home.
- Average target: During the second and third months, go to the gym twice a week and do one or two light workouts at home.
- Maximum goal: from the fourth month until the end of 2021, try to go to the gym at least twice a week, but strive to get there three times a week on an ongoing basis.
Such a scheme can help you to get involved in the training process more easily and more organized. And if you liked it so much in the first months that such a calendar became completely unnecessary, this is also absolutely normal! The essence of the method is to change your habits gently and without overdoing it, and only then accelerate to full speed.
Once you’ve charted the various goals, it’s time to add signals to help you stick to them. For example, you can try signals like this:
- Get your athletic equipment and shoes ready the day before your workout. Then, on your way to the gym, listen to your …