Learn within this article how to build healthy habits into your life today.
Like any act of creating, building healthy habits requires both planning and execution. The habit former is that of an architect, with the choice of taking either an abstract approach: identifying a goal conceptually and setting forth to attain it without structure, or, a practical approach: taking a more systemic and calculated route to attaining said goal. One approach boasts simplicity with immediate, but unreliable progress. The other – well, let’s just say it’ll take a little more time and thought. But I assure you, it is well worth it and more sustainable. Building and maintaining healthy habits requires one to define their habit. Understand its significance and to hold oneself accountable through created systems of checks and balances.
Step 1: Define (or identify) The Habit
How does one map their journey, with the intent to arrive, if the destination is unknown? Building health habits is the same. It is important to be specific when defining exactly what it is you’re looking to accomplish. While you won’t become an expert in one day from researching your activity of choice. You will become more directed in your path to instating a new habit. Also making sure that you’re continually on the right track to growth and achievement.
Specificity can often be lost when thinking too broad. For example, one might say their goal is to “do yoga”, “Become a Writer” or any other vague statement. You start overlooking the oh-so-important details that protect you from aimlessly doing something without reaping the true benefits. The best way to ensure you have a good understanding, is to do your research. Do what is called a “brain dump”. A brain dump is when you brainstorm all the potential questions you might have about a particular topic without holding back and answer them. This will help you to fully understand the scope of what you’re trying to achieve.
For example, if you’re attempting to become a yogi. You might want to know things like what level you’re currently at, the different types of poses for your skill level, what type of yoga you’ll practice (i.e. Yin, Bikram, etc), how to breathe during yoga, and so on. This kind of critical thinking will help you map out the progression you’d like to take. It will also help support the other steps in building this healthy habit. Being specific about your habit and what you’re trying to achieve, sets you up for success by laying a strong foundation for further pursuit of building healthy habits.
This is the first step on how to build healthy habits into your life.
STEP 2: Find your “Why”
The single most important step in building a healthy habit is finding out the ‘why’. The significance of anything that you take interest in is so vital to the motivation and passion that you put behind whatever you do. The same goes for habits! How much more likely, are you to do something that you’re passionate about than you are to do something that bears no significance to you? Not very likely, I’m guessing. Understanding why you are doing what you’re doing is imperative for sustainability. If you’re trying to lose weight and go for a run. Your “why” will get you out of the door and down the street.
The best way to do it!
The best way to go about this is to take the habit you’ve identified and ask yourself why this is something you’d like to accomplish. Then narrow this down further by considering both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that you may have. Intrinsic motivators are those that influence you to do something because it benefits you as an individual. For instance, say you’ve committed to doing yoga and you’ve decided to do this for both your physical and mental health.
Essentially, you might find you’re motivated to engage in a daily practice because it makes you more mindful, calms a busy mind or helps to tone and define your body. On the other hand, extrinsically, you may be inspired by being able to show others your progress, improving your skills to make money teaching or to impress that guy in the hot yoga class you go to once a week, who you admire. Some other important factors to consider when forming any habit. Are things like how this change will affect you, the people in your circle. Like friends, family and your spouse, and how this habit will affect your lifestyle overall. Generally, intrinsic motivators are more sustainable and adapt better through periods of change.
However, beware: there are ways that one can lose the power behind this driving force and they seem perfectly innocent. One major mishap is as simple as hitting “follow” or “subscribe. Now, I’d like to start off by saying that we are all guilty of this. Enjoying a fruitful scrolling session, where we’re actively seeking out an influencer to help guide us and better define the habit we’re forming. Then there she/he is and we’re instantly drawn in – like moths to a flame. Then, the idealising starts: “I want to do this like that”, you dwell on how good that person is. How far you are from them and just like that your “why” no longer has anything to do with you.
It’s no longer about improving your mental or physical health, positively impacting your lifestyle or that of those around you. Now it’s about you wanting to feel the way that they look. This is often followed by feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing. If your habit is making you feel this way, you need to revisit your “why”. But worry not, you can avoid this by taking a step back from social media and reconnecting with yourself. It’s always good to check in when you feel checked out.
How can you be mindful of your motivations when shrouded in those of others? You can’t. When finding your “Why” ensure to stay mindful and present in your journey. Irregardless of what you find your prime motivator to be. Remember it has to be something that makes you happy, fulfils an important purpose and betters your life in some way. This will be your fuel.
This is the second step on how to build healthy habits into your life.
Step 3: Develop a Routine and a System
No habit can be properly built, without a routine. The goal of building a routine around your habit or incorporating it into a pre-existing routine is to ensure that you are not a one hit wonder in your efforts. As this would make for wasted energy and time but without reaping the ongoing rewards. Now that you know exactly what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it. It’s important to figure out, not only how and when you will do it, but how you will keep yourself accountable to keep doing it.
Have you ever started a new habit, gone into it super excited and ambitious. Then only to complete the first session with furious fervour and never to return again? Well, join the club. This often happens because we go into things with great intent. But spend no time creating a routine and a system of checks and balances.
When you’re young, your parents, guardians, teachers and generally any adult, keeps you on track to your goals. Whether it be reminding you to do your homework, checking your grades at the end of the term or telling you to shower before bed. You have an accountability system in place, whether you like it or not. As an adult, it’s your turn to have your own back in making it to the next milestone. The good news is, that there are apps for keeping you accountable with pretty much any habit you’re working on.
Frequency of new habit:
From here, you want to look at how often you’d like to partake in this new habit. Consider if you’ll need breaks in between days, how many times you’ll do it in a day/week. Also the linear progression of advancing in aptitude. Next, you’ll want to look at when you will do this activity. If you have a pre-existing routine of any sort, it’s best to look at aligning the time these are done with other complementary habits. For example, if your new habit is daily meditation and you already have a yoga or fitness practice. You may want to incorporate the meditation for when you arrive on your mat, to get in the right headspace, or at the end of a workout as a part of your cool-down.
After you’ve isolated the how and when of it all, you want to make sure that you’re keeping the promises you made to yourself. You can do this by setting intentions & prepping, as well as taking stock and rewarding yourself for your consistency.
Intentions and prep work are vital to building a healthy habit:
Setting intentions is something typically best done before bed or early in the morning prior to the start of your day. This part of the process allows you to set your itinerary and goals for the day. It also gives you the chance to visualise what your next steps are going to look like. It can be done by simply affirming allowed that you are going to do something. For example “Tomorrow morning at 5:30am, I will do my leg workout and push through the pain”. Make sure that these intentions or affirmations are as specific as they are serious.
Prep-work is the second step to bringing your intentions to life. Continuing with the workout example, you would set out your squat shorts and shoes that will be worn for tomorrow’s leg workout. This takes the guesswork out of the morning, and removes any opportunity for you to talk yourself out of execution.
The harder and more tedious part – unless you’re analytically minded, love lists and creating trackers like me, then get ready for the fun! However, there are fitness trackers, yoga practice trackers, healthy eating and water consumption trackers, the list really is endless or, if you’re more so old school like me, a reliable piece of paper and a pen should do. Taking stock is when you look back at the day, week, month and year, and analyse how many times you’ve followed through and how many times you didn’t, what worked and what didn’t and how your novel habit has evolved over time. You can do this by keeping a journal, ticking days off on a calendar or using one of the thousands of apps that will display this data for you.
This will give you a great idea as to how far you’ve come, what level you’re at and if you have stuck to your word. A word to the wise though – try not to be too hard on yourself; you’re going to miss days and not every day will be the same, and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself. When building a new habit, one must develop a sound routine that ensures a smooth flow with other activities and consistency; this is best achieved through setting intentions, preparing oneself for the day ahead and taking stock of all of your hard work.
This is the third step on how to build healthy habits.
Building healthy habits is not a simple task and is not for the faint of heart; It requires one to identify and define the potential habit, mindfully understand all aspects of the “why” and to be brutally honest in holding oneself accountable. As an architect to your own fate, you must ensure to have a solid foundation to build upon, achieved only through purposeful planning and execution. The goal with building anything, is building it to last and when starting a new endeavour, one should always have that in mind as the goal.
Through constant repetition of the habit, growth and mastery can be attained, but only if the habit is maintained. That being said, when you’re building your habitually healthy lifestyle, continue to seek knowledge, find inspiration in all things and make that your fuel and be mindful of yourself enough to be honest about your progress, so that you may continue to grow and be a better version of yourself, every day. We hope you have learnt how to build healthy habits within this article.
Written by Krista Mayers