We all dream of a life where we’re more healthy and productive: We wake up sooner, we eat healthy, we work out more frequently and get more things done through the day without suffering from any chronic pains or bad health conditions. But few of you actually live it.
You do your best to make that vision a reality: you follow diets, you adopt exercise 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 appreciate the comfort those old habits offer you; you love how they don’t need any attempts or additional energy. But after the guilt comes in. You start feeling ashamed of the bad decisions you made. You lose hope and possibly you even try 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 over that? It all starts in your head. Rewiring your brain to shift the attention from hating the negative patterns to developing new healthy ones is the ultimate way to drastic change. To have a healthy lifestyle, you must first develop the right mindset for it.
Luckily, we gathered for you now 4 strategies that are sure to teach you exactly how to master your mindset and create a change that lasts forever.
1. Just. Get. Started. The effect of taking baby steps will compound and make you take bigger ones. Be disciplined and remain determined. Don’t wait for motivation to knock at your door. Do it anyways, even on the days you don’t feel like it. And what is 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 idea (… ) Because when you move, your brain starts to build new habits (… ) You are in the act of constructing new customs and erasing existing ones.”
This rule, stated by the author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins, is a form of metacognition which allows you conquer the tricks your mind plays to divert you, by turning on your prefrontal cortex. The neuroscientist and researcher at Yale University Amy Arnsten explains that the 5-4-3-2-1-Go! Countdown activates that brain area responsible of decision-making and planning. It matters also that you set goals for yourself on the long term. These goals will help you create sustainable habits. The motivation will come along when the changes become more and more noticeable.
2. Understand How Habits Work. Habits are formed through a very simple, yet very strong chain of activities Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg calls: The Loop. In his book The Power Of Habit, he says:
Then there’s the routine, which may be physical or mental or psychological. Finally, there’s a reward, which helps your mind figure out if this particular loop is well worth remembering for the future. With 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 have to follow the exact 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, attempt to implement a healthy behavior to which you accord the same reward and trigger. Remind yourself more frequently of the reward and repeat this loop before the old habit is erased and the healthy one becomes ingrained in your routine. And last, be patient.
3. Track Your Progress, No Matter How Small. Keep your eye on the progress you are making. Use a calendar and mark the days you follow the healthy habits, this trick won’t only inform you on the times you are making a progress, it will also motivate you not the break the chain. But in case you miss a day where you don’t perform the healthy habit, do not quit. Missing one day will have no impact on your long term outcomes.
4. Enjoy The Process. All of us know that change is hard, but by rewarding yourself and observing each little victory, you will find yourself prone to stick with the healthy behaviour. Acknowledge your achievements and find happiness from the healthy lifestyle you are now alive, for it’s the greatest way to make it last forever. And bear in mind, it’s never too late to live the life you want!