All of us dream of a life where we are more healthy and productive: We wake up sooner, we eat healthy, we work out more often and get more things done during the day without suffering from any chronic pains or bad health conditions.
You do what you can to make that vision a reality: you follow diets, you adopt workout programs, but after a brief period of time you end up falling back into the exact same negative routines.
Change is difficult, and no matter how much you hate to admit it, you enjoy the comfort these old customs give you; you love how they don’t require any efforts or energy. But later the guilt comes in. You start feeling ashamed of the bad choices you made. You shed hope and possibly you even attempt to convince yourself that it is too late for you and that you’re simply not meant for the lifestyle you desire. Old habits are hard to kill.
The way to get that? It all begins in your head. Rewiring your brain to shift the attention from hating the negative patterns to developing new wholesome ones is the greatest way to extreme change. To have a healthy lifestyle, you must first develop the ideal mindset for it.
Luckily, we assembled for you now 4 strategies that are guaranteed to teach you exactly how to master your mindset and make a change that lasts forever.
1. Start small, REALLY small. Just. Get. Started. The effect of taking baby steps will compound and make you take bigger ones. Be disciplined and stay determined. Do not wait for motivation to knock at your door. Do it anyways, even on the days you don’t feel like it. And what’s one of the best ways to get moving? That’s by following The 5 Second Rule:
” If you have an urge to act on a target, you must physically move within 5 minutes or your brain will kill the thought (… ) Because when you move, your brain begins to build new habits (… ) You are in the act of building new customs and erasing existing ones.”
This principle, stated by the author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins, is a kind of metacognition that allows you overcome the tricks your brain plays to distract you, by turning on your prefrontal cortex. The neuroscientist and researcher at Yale University Amy Arnsten explains the 5-4-3-2-1-animal pest removal! Countdown activates that brain region responsible of planning and decision-making. These goals can allow you to create sustainable habits.
2. Understand How Habits Work. Habits are formed through a very simple, yet very powerful chain of actions Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg calls: The Loop. In his book The Power Of Habit, he says:
” First, there’s a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the regular, which may be physical or psychological or psychological. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your mind figure out if this particular loop is Worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a strong sense of anticipation and craving emerges.”
This means that in the event you want to change your habits, you need to follow the same principles that made them. First, begin by identifying the negative habits you have. Identify the cause behind them, the behavior that follows and the reward you are feeling. Then, try to implement a healthy behaviour to which you accord the same reward and trigger. Remind yourself more often of the reward and repeat this loop until the old habit is erased and the wholesome one becomes ingrained in your own routine. And last, be patient. Keep in mind that forming a new habit takes 66 days on average according to a study from University College (London, 2000).
3. Track Your Progress, No Matter How Small. Keep your eye on the progress you are making. Use a calendar and mark the times you follow the nutritious habits, this trick will not only inform you on the days you are making a progress, it will also motivate you not the break the chain. But in case you miss a day in which you don’t execute the healthy habit, do not quit. Missing one day will have no effect on your long term outcomes.
4. Enjoy The Process. All of us know that change is hard, but by rewarding yourself and celebrating each small victory, you’ll find yourself prone to stick with the healthy behavior. Acknowledge your achievements and find happiness from the healthy lifestyle you are now alive, for it is the ultimate way to make it last forever. And remember, it is never too late to live the life you want!