Your habits are the building blocks of your health.
So creating healthy habits that last is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle.
But for most people, change isn’t easy.
And making changes towards healthier living takes time.
It can even seem daunting.
Thinking about all the things you would like to improve on can feel overwhelming.
That’s why so many people slip back into their old ways, their old habits.
It’s just too much to take in.
So how do you make healthy changes stick? How do you create a healthy lifestyle that will work for you?
It takes a bit of time, but it is possible.
Healthy living doesn’t need to be an optimistic yet completely unrealistic ideal.
But chances are you’ve spent more time dwelling on “falling off the wagon” then you’ve been on it.
You took everyone’s advice. You did all the right things, but it didn’t last.
That’s because what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you.
You’re unique. Acknowledge that.
Maybe bitter green smoothies first thing in the morning just isn’t your thing. Shocking.
But for someone else they might be.
Creating an individualised plan is what you need. Something that is catered to you.
Follow the steps below and you’ll be able to stick to health goals with more ease.
Here’s how you can create healthy living habits that will last.
Find your motivation to change
Often times motivation can be the guide that keeps you on track.
Especially in those early days when falling off comes far more easily.
To find what motivates you, start by thinking about the why.
Why do you want to be healthier? Why do you want to make changes to your current lifestyle?
Change only happens if you truly want it.
Once you’ve pinned down the reasons why, you’ve already made more progress than you realise.
Rather than forcing new habits, you’re choosing them.
By finding your own reasons to be healthy you are personalising the change. You’re no longer trying to copy others.
Living healthier then becomes an attainable reality.
The motivation, the why makes all the difference.
It’s what will sustain you throughout the habit building process and beyond.
Focusing on the why is especially important during those more difficult social situations.
Remembering the reasons why you want to be healthy will make it easier to reach for those veggie sticks and avoid the seemingly ever present dessert trays.
So spend some time and figure out what really motivates you to want to be healthier.
Picture the end result
Every action plan needs a destination.
You’ve likely researched what a healthy lifestyle involves, particularly a healthy diet.
So you know what changes need to be made and which ones matter most to you.
Now it’s time to make it a reality.
Create a vivid image in your mind of where you want to go. What do you want your healthier life to look like?
Maybe that will involve eating more raw fruits and vegetables. Or going for that daily run.
Whatever it is, bring that life into reality by first imagining what it will look like. In as much detail as you can.
As you begin these tips can help you create a more realistic picture in your mind of where you want to go.
It may sound silly, but it really does work.
And, in many ways it’s necessary to make change stick.
Mental imagery is used in all types of circumstances from sports to music performance to psychotherapy.
It’s a technique that’s been tried-and-tested.
It’s a skill that when properly practiced can bring real change to your life.
Mentally imagining where you want to go is the first step to achieving your goals, no matter what they are.
If you can see, you can believe it.
And that’s means you’re half-way there already.
Make a plan you can follow
The first step to making a plan is to, well, make it.
Your plan should be a step-by-step approach towards reaching the image you have already created.
Work backwards and figure out what aspects of your life need to change to end up at your imagined reality.
If it’s going to work, your plan needs to be realistic.
For example, if you’re not a huge breakfast person, don’t set a goal of eating a large plant-based meal first thing in the morning.
Ease into things.
Maybe snack on whole plant foods throughout the morning. Or start the day off with a smaller meal.
If you want to run more, but you can’t actually remember the last time you went for a run, don’t aim for a marathon in your first month.
Each step doesn’t need to be big.
They just need to move you consistently in the direction of your goals.
Start with small steps and keep it simple
Whether it’s beginning a meditation practice, early morning runs, or larger salads before your evening meal, don’t be afraid to start small.
Test things out slowly.
You don’t need to go from zero to a hundred on your first day.
Slow and steady really does “win” the race.
And reaching your goals is the ultimate win.
If your aim is to run 10 km, then work backwards and start with easy jogging the first couple of weeks.
Find a distance or time that’s comfortable for you and go from there.
If it’s 1 km, great. It’s just a place to start.
You can build up from there.
However, sometimes going all-in or taking larger steps can really make a difference.
Like getting rid of the junk food in your cupboards. Or filling your kitchen with whole plant foods and healthy recipes.
But even then it’s best to just focus on your next meal rather than be overwhelmed by the idea of eating plant-based for a week, a month, or more.
As long as you’re on the right path, you don’t need to squint at the distant horizon.
You’re more likely to stumble if you look too far ahead.
Just focus on the first step.
It’ll help you avoid getting overwhelmed. And it’ll make sure your footing is on solid ground, keeping you on track.
Focus on one aspect at a time
At first, concentrate on one area that you want to improve in.
Give it a week or month to develop those new habits.
For example, focus on incorporating more salads into your weekly diet.
Once you feel you’ve achieved a decent level of success in that area, you can move on to the next one.
Practicing developing new habits like this allows you to build up to your goals in a sustainable way.
The more solidly you establish each new behaviour or skill individually, the more likely they are to stick.
So make a list of the healthy changes you would like to take.
Then focus on the first one until you feel you have it down pat. Only then move on to the next step.
Be sure to include various aspects of healthy living as you plan your goals.
A well-rounded approach is best for living a truly healthy life.
Your health is built by daily habits and behaviours
Repetition is best for habit formation. So implement changes you can repeat daily.
Those who begin each year with grand resolutions rarely see them through.
Because they don’t have a plan. They don’t have small steps they can take each day to work towards their goal.
It’s those daily habits that are more likely to stick.
It may not be as glamorous, but they are realistic.
With each small step you take, real, lasting habits will be created.
The more frequent you repeat and practice your new habits the better. That’s why daily works best.
So try to incorporate that into your goals.
Eating a salad or getting a half hour or so of exercise each day is going to be easier to sustain.
The behaviours you do each day set a standard, a norm. You’ll begin to do them without even thinking.
And that’s what building healthy habits is all about. Making them something you do naturally.
They become just what you do each day.
Get up, go for a run, eat fresh fruit, pack a healthy lunch, make a salad, relax and focus on your breathing, go to bed early.
Whatever healthy habits you want to have, daily works best.
At the end of a year or even a few months, you’ll be amazed how much you’ve changed.
Remind yourself of the larger picture
Remember that picture you imagined at the beginning? The “what you want your life to look like” image?
Well remind yourself of it. Regularly.
Your “whys” will reinforce your reasons for wanting to make those changes.
So have cues that bring them to mind. Images or phrases around your house or on your computer can really help.
Certain times can be more difficult to maintain your new habits.
Especially during holidays eating healthy can seem to be an even greater challenge.
At such times, think about the big picture. Remember where you want to go.
So stick to your reasons why.
They’ll keep you on track.
Sustaining healthy living habits long-term is definitely within your reach, if you want it.
But before you begin making changes to your lifestyle, figure out what motivates you most to make those changes.
Figure out the why that inspired you to become healthier in the first place.
Then create an image in your mind of where you want to go. What you want your healthy life to look like.
Next outline a step-by-step plan that will help you reach those goals.
Small, simple steps are all that are needed.
Don’t over complicate things.
Just focus on one aspect at a time.
The biggest change to your life will actually come through the little things you do each day.
Those habits are the ones that what will determine your health.
And most importantly, stay on track by keeping your reasons and motivations fresh in your mind.
Use whatever cues you need to do that.
Remind yourself where you want to go long-term.
And soon enough you’ll be there.
By following these steps, you can effectively create healthy habits that will last a lifetime.