How to develop good habits to achieve your health and fitness goals!

We all have health and fitness goals. We start new eating plans or workout routines and many of us struggle to stick to them. So how can we change this? We need to make these new eating plans and exercise regimes a HABIT!

 

So what is a habit?

Habits are the automation of previously conscious decisions. They are the choices we action, and then stop thinking about but continue to carry out, often daily. For example, do you have the same routine every morning when you wake up? When you move house, does this throw your routine until you have embedded the new habit? At some point, we all consciously decide what our morning routine will be. This routine becomes automatic when we stop consciously conducting the actions needed to achieve the outcome. This automatic behaviour is a habit.

 

Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. A study by Duke University in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of actions performed each day were not conscious decisions but habits. By understanding how habits develop, it is possible to change them.

 

Habit loop

Habits are a process within our brains formed via a three-step loop:

  1. Cue: A trigger that tells your brain to go into auto-pilot
  2. Routine: The steps of the habit
  3. Reward: Helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

 

Over time the loop becomes more and more automatic and eventually the brain starts to crave the reward when the cue occurs. The craving of the reward is what solidifies the habit loop. It is this craving of the reward that is key to turning good exercise and nutrition habits into a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Habitual exercisers have a clear reward:

  • More energy
  • Release of feel good endorphins
  • An evening of guilt free television
  • Feeling strong, fit and healthy
  • Fitting into clothes
  • Feeling less bloated

 

To achieve these rewards and create new healthy habits, a pre-determined cue is required, for example:

  • Exercising at particular times of the day or week:
  • First thing in the morning or as soon as you get home from work
  • On particular days
  • Being prepared to eat healthy with:
  • Weekly menu planning
  • Completing the grocery shopping at the start of the week

 

So what can I do?

 

There are five steps to achieving new good habits. Read the steps in the table below and the complete these steps for yourself to identify how you can instil new, healthy, good habits for life!

 

Step Detail
1. Identify the challenges you face or the goals you can’t seem to achieve What are the everyday challenges that prevent you from being who you want to be?
2. Identify your bad habits

 

What are the behaviours you repeatedly perform that prevent you from achieving your goals?
3. Identify dominant bad habits

 

Do you have one bad habit that if you changed would improve your other bad habits? If so, focus your attention here. If not, choose your top two to three bad habits to focus on.
4. Identify the cue and reward for each bad habit The cue is the trigger for the habit to occur.

The reward helps the brain confirm the act is worth remembering.

5. Develop strategies for new good habits

 

Once you have identified these cues and rewards, you have two options:

a)            Develop a new, positive routine to action when the cue occurs that enables you to retain the reward (or create a new, better reward!)

b)           Develop strategies to avoid or manage the cue and avoid falling into the bad habit loop

 

Good habits lead to success

Long term sustainable change is impossible without looking at your habits and identifying the behaviours that have prevented you from achieving your goals in the past. It’s time to eliminate these behaviours and develop positive sustainable habits that will help you be successful for life!

 

For more information on changing your habits, sign up to one of our three challengeme-fitness.com programs and receive the tools you need to change your unhealthy habits forever!