How To Start Forming Healthy Habits
Posted by Mike Foster I’ve heard that a habit is created when you do anything repetitively more than three times. If this is the case, it’s extremely easy to form habits and very hard to break them. So, why do we start to do things repetitively? How to we quit bad habits and start good ones? In “Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives,” Gretchen Rubin claims “different habits work for different folks as we have different personal styles.” I imagine we find something we enjoy and want to enjoy it again. So we repeat these actions. On the other hand, some things offer us an escape from the world and give us temporary fulfillment so we repeat those actions as well. If you’re looking to have positive habits, here are a few ideas on how to start weeding out the negative ones.
Reward Yourself. You’re not exactly a dog so food is probably not the best way to do this. However, you can spoil yourself in little ways with something you love. Every morning after the gym, make yourself a cup of coffee or try a new protein shake. After you read your Bible, doodle your favorite verse on a piece of paper and hang it on your fridge next to your kids finger paint masterpieces. Do something that is not only a fun but is also positive reinforcement to keep you moving in the right direction.
Process The Progress. When you’re trying to form new habits, it’s easy to mistake your steps toward change as failures when you’re basing your success on results. Keep a count of the days you’ve made healthy choices versus the weight you’ve lost. Track the times you’ve flirted with your spouse, not how often they've reciprocate it. Change is a process and you cannot jump from the start to the finish line. Run the race and celebrate the fact that you’re simply running it.
Where You Are Is Who You Are. Habits are formed by our environment because they’re created out of the resources we have access to daily. If you want to change who you are, change where you are. If you don’t want to smoke anymore, you probably shouldn’t stand by the smoking area on your lunch break. If you don’t want to drink, don’t sit at the bar. Try something new. What you surround yourself with is what you will become.
Master The Mundane. Would you say that you’re a swimmer if you only jump in the ocean that one time you go to the beach in the summer? Probably not. You don’t do it often enough. But if you go to work everyday, you start to feel like your schedule is a little off when you take a sick day or a vacation. We tend to identify ourselves by the things we take part in on a repetitive basis- our jobs, parental duties, friendships, hobbies. They become habits we seemingly almost cannot do without. So choose to do presently what you want to project into your future.
To start forming healthy habits, take inventory of your everyday. What do you do repetitively? Who do you constantly surround yourself by? What are the things you need to positively push yourself to accomplish? How can you change your daily activities to have a future impact?
Decide what you want your habits to look like and make a game plan to form them. Be patient with yourself because bad habits are hard to break. But remember, the God who breathed you into existence is still empowering you to take thousands of little breaths every day that make up your one life. So it’s the tiny steps and small choices that add up to a great impact. Mike Foster is the founder of People of the Second Chance and the author of Freeway: A Not So Perfect Guide To Freedom. He lives in San Diego with his family and fluffy dog.