Change your habits to change your health.

Last week I promised this week would be part 2/3 and today I’m cancelling that because of writers block, but I’m not going to lament over it. Instead, I’ll just give you some important tips for overcoming or changing habits that might be holding you back from becoming healthy, fit and strong.

 

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, the very first thing you must do to change a habit is recognize that you have one in the first place. Second, you must decide that you want to change it.

 

Duhigg says “You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives.”

 

At Her Fitness we have something called a “Focus Board.” It’s a white board with the client’s name and next to her name is a quick one-liner of what she wants to focus on changing. Typical entries on the board are “drink “x” ounces of water, go to bed by 10 p.m., exercise a 5th day for 30 minutes”.

 

Our Focus Board helps our clients recognize they have a habit in the first place (one that isn’t serving her well) and puts it in black and white as something she wants to change.

 

Duhigg gives a framework for you to follow. In addition to identify the routine/habit, he says to experiment with rewards (if you are hungry an apple will do, if you want a break from the task at hand going for a walk will satisfy you as much as a cookie), and then isolate the cue. To isolate a cue, use these five categories 1. Location 2. Time of day 3. Your emotional state 4. Who else is around 5. What action preceded the urge or habit. Mark these things for several days and look for patterns and then, Have A Plan!

 

Having a plan is a choice you deliberately make that will take the old habit off auto-pilot. Since habits are formulas our brain automatically follows, it’s smart to “pre-decide” before your brain just does the same old thing again.

 

Let’s say you want to start exercising before you go to work, but you’ve tried before and the cozy bed always wins out over sweating in the gym at 5 a.m.. Pre-decide that you will workout, create the plan. Something like this will do:

 

Lay out gym clothes and water bottle at 9 pm. the night before. Go to bed at 9:30 pm. Set alarm for 5:00 a.m., meet Marie and Jody at 5:45 a.m. at Her Fitness.

Your plan may not work every time in the beginning, but staying committed to the cause will get you to follow through most of the time.

 

Consistency

To recap the framework according to Duhigg:

  1. Identify the routine/habit
  2. Experiment with rewards (this helps figure out what you really need…and it’s not usually the beer or wine)
  3. Isolate the cue [that triggers the routine or event you want to change]
  4. Have a plan [to help you change to a more positive habit]