Building Healthy Habits (and making sure they stick!)

12 January 2022

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Liv Ambassador, Laura Kennington is not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions as they tend to carry too much pressure with them, “why wait for January 1st to make a healthy change? I am a great believer in focusing on the more accessible daily habits”, explains the adventure enthusiast. Wherever you land on this topic, Laura hopes that this blog post will help you out…

Here’s a list of some tips and tricks that help Laura build her very own healthy habits:

Know your 'why'

The good news is that when something becomes established as a habit, it’s very easy to stick to. Generally speaking, it takes 21 days for a new habit to form. However, in the meantime, building any new habit can, at first, feel like an uphill struggle. It feels less convenient and probably all at odds with your usual rhythm. At some point, the novelty will likely wear off and you could be tempted to fall back to where you were before you started. The classic example: thousands of people sign up to the gym in earnest each year, a large number of them are nowhere to be seen as the year goes on…

Anticipating this friction in advance is key. Write down why it matters. Write down the potential consequences of not following through. Write down why it’s essential that you do the new thing and why this time you must succeed. Refer back to this when things get tough and it gets tempting to give up! Having it in writing makes it much harder to dismiss!

Accountability and scheduling

One of the most common reasons people give for not fitting something in is ‘lack of time’. Of course, there will be days when this is true, unforeseen things always arise but more often than not, it’s a case of looking at your calendar with intention and figuring out where the gaps are. With exercise as an example here, just as you might schedule in a meeting, make sure you schedule in some time for your workout - keep the appointment and have everything prepared accordingly. Something came up? Reschedule it. By having a dedicated appointment set for it, rather than “at some point today I need to __” makes it tangible and you can keep yourself accountable.

On this note, I think it’s important to also honestly examine where you spend your time in general. For example, if you want to read more but never seem to get around to doing that, then maybe you need to look at how much TV you’re watching. Saying yes to something usually means saying no to something else - it’s a case of figuring out what you want to prioritise, what will bring you more long-term value. Do you *really* need to watch another episode of something on Netflix or would that time be better spent elsewhere? I have alarms on my devices that kick in at 8pm each night - a signal to put the screens away and pick up a book!

Similarly, if one of your habits is to eat better, you have to first establish how you usually eat. Keeping a food diary for a week gives you an objective look at your habitual eating habits - and where they can be improved if necessary. The first step is to always get an honest look at where you’re at - what needs changing - and then figure out how to fit in the changes. Don’t leave it up to luck/willpower - get organised.

Stack 'em up

In building a new habit, it’s really helpful to attach it to something you already do - something referred to as “habit stacking” by James Clear in his book ‘Atomic Habits’ (well worth a read!). The idea, popularised by BJ Fogg at Stanford University (who called the strategy a “tiny habits recipe”), is that your current behaviour automatically becomes a trigger for the new behaviour.

The formula is very simple: After [insert current habit here], I will [insert new habit here]. I started a daily gratitude practice a few years ago following this formula - a habit now well and truly ingrained: After I brush my teeth before bed, I will make a list of 3 things that I’m grateful for today. A note on this particular habit: several studies have shown it to be significantly beneficial for improving well-being (further reading here for example) If you don’t already adopt this habit, it comes highly recommended!

Long term approach

Similar to my first point but this is a good time to explore the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. As a brief summary, intrinsic motivation is when you’re motivated to do something for its own sake, the task itself is personally rewarding to you. Extrinsic motivation, however, is external - you’re compelled to do something for a reward or to avoid an undesirable action. Of course, we use both but I mention them here because I think it’s vital to tap into intrinsic motivation in the long term if your habit is going to be sustainable. I don’t just ride my bike to train for upcoming challenges, I move my body because I know it will make me feel better - physically and mentally. I ride my bike because I enjoy the views, the fresh air and how it makes me feel. That’s not to say that I love every second of every bike ride, but I do think it’s worth finding something that taps into intrinsic motivation if you want to make long-term, sustainable change. Consistency is a vastly underrated force!

Celebrate the Wins, Learn from the Hiccups

None of us are perfect. If there are some days that you don’t manage to stick to the schedule, it’s more important to look at what went awry than to berate yourself for the slip up. If you figure out where you stumbled, you can hopefully course correct for next time. Similarly, the more you celebrate the times you do succeed, the more motivation you’ll have to carry on. Each little win is part of a much bigger picture and I think it's really important to consider that the biggest changes come from the smallest of habits. Although no one habit feels especially significant, it’s the accumulation of them that yields the result - with each decision, you’re either taking a step towards or further away from where you want to be.  What you do day in and day out repeatedly matters - it all adds up.

Well, we hope you’re all feeling super inspired and motivated after reading Laura’s helpful hints and tips towards building (and sticking to) healthy habits. If you enjoyed reading this post and would like to see more content just like this, head over to Laura’s Instagram, where she regularly shares insightful, informative and inspiring content.

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