If you've ever invested any amount of time in trying to improve your health and happiness, you realize how complex human health really is. If you have ever tried breaking a bad habit, you know who ingrained they are. The decision to be healthier and happier isn't a one-time choice — it's dozens of choices each and every day. Research shows a new routine takes 21 days to become a habit. Human behavior is very habitual, and most of the time, we operate out of habits, good or bad.
Achieving optimal health involves making tough and deliberate choices about your lifestyle; you must put your mind to it. The food you eat, your activity level, surroundings, mental attitude, social life, and the medicines you use to heal yourself all matter.
The problem is, humans aren't great at consistently making healthy choices, especially when first starting. You might start your morning strong, but our decision-making faculties get depleted throughout the day, and you might find yourself giving in to the temptation of a high-calorie dessert, binge-watching tv, excessive social media, and a late bedtime by the end of the day. Making the decision is the first step, stepping stones, to lifelong lasting change.
We have become more sedentary in our jobs and home lives than ever before, and the obesity rate is skyrocketing, with our health declining just as fast. We live in this world where we have a fear of missing out (FOMO), and with technology everywhere we turn, we are often obsessed and bombarded, even becoming addicted. It is "smart" technology at that, which is an entirely different kind of advancement in the history of humankind. Try disconnecting and watch your productivity take off!
Developing and keeping healthy habits takes time, motivation, and consistency. Here are six ideas to keep your motivation high until your old patterns are replaced with healthy ones. The best part? Happiness is a side effect.
1. Start With Small Steps and a Positive Attitude
Nothing wears down your reserves of willpower and motivation more than the feeling that you've bitten off more than you can chew. Overwhelm quickly leads to cheating, a negative attitude, and giving up. However, something as simple as smiling can boost dopamine levels; try it. Starting with small steps will allow you to feel a consistent sense of progress and accomplishment.
Try This Today:
- Dedicate just one meal a day to healthy, whole foods. Preferably organic and raw.
- If you're starting a new fitness routine, start with a 30-minute walk and build it up.
- Don't forget to take a "get up and stretch" break every few hours during your workday.
- Practice gratitude every day.
- Compliment someone; it will boost your happiness and theirs.
2. Prioritize Your Efforts and Your Mindset
Another surefire recipe for burnout is doubting yourself or trying to change every aspect of your life and health at once. Picking up new healthy habits must be incorporated slowly, a few at a time, to be effective.
Keep track so you can look back and see the progress you've made. You're most likely to be successful if you choose a few key areas of your life to prioritize first. For example, if you spend most of your waking hours at work, you might consider doing all you can to make that a healthy space. If you want to focus on your children's health, consider cutting out food additives, dyes, and high fructose corn syrup. It's all about what's most important to you in this particular season of your life.
Try This Today:
- Create a list that weighs different health priorities according to possible impact, difficulty to implement, desire to achieve, etc.
- Journal about your goals, plans, and the steps you'll take for that change, can be quite beneficial.
- You can prioritize either stopping bad behavior, promoting good behavior, or both.
3. Get Outward-Focused
You can be a motivational coach for yourself and others, family, or friends who have unhealthy habits. The more social and outward-focused your health initiatives are, the easier it will be to make the right choices. Get other people to come along with you on your journey, and try to build habits together. Helping them adopt healthy habits and avoid starting them in the first place is quite beneficial for you too.
Try This Today:
- Focus on your family's health; make a whole foods-healthy sit-down meal.
- Check-in with family or friends and start a walking/running/exercise group.
- Build a support group of like-minded people with the same health goals, both dietary and emotional, whether it's in your local community or online community.
4. Keep Yourself Accountable
It's easy to cheat on your health goals when you don't track them, what and when, for example. Likewise, if you don't record your successes, you can't get nearly as much satisfaction out of them. That's why it's so important to record all your health goals — it's about mindfulness, not about punishing or rewarding yourself. For example, keeping a daily routine or just being diligent about logging things you eat each day can make a big difference because you see the words typed out or written out on paper.
Try This Today:
- Take advantage of tracking apps and spreadsheets that you can update from your phone for ease of reporting consistently and accurately. Pen to paper works too!
- Find some way to make your accountability public; sharing with a spouse or friend or posting your results on social media.
- Prioritize visible changes, like replacing items in your home with less toxic alternatives. For example, use glass or bamboo dishware instead of plastic.
5. Try an Inspiring Mantra
We have this "inner story," negative or positive. We tell ourselves: "I am loveable even with my imperfections" or "I have so much work, stress, and I need to get organized." Change the voice in your head, consciously. One of the only ways to combat that inner voice is by redirecting your thoughts and filling your mind with a slogan or mantra — one that appeals to your best possible self. Try "I am here," "I am enough," "I am okay," or "I can do this." Tapping is a technique based on some eastern acupuncture that involves EFT, emotional freedom technique, where you literally tap on endpoints of meridian points of your body while saying a mantra. This helps retrain the brain and get you back into a parasympathetic state. It is a form of psychological acupuncture from Traditional Chinese Medicine and so powerful. Try this tapping meditation mantra replacing wording with a phrase that is right for you.
You tap (5-7 times on each point) using your four fingertips of one hand as you speak each line below:
Tap the Karate Chop point on your other hand: Even though I feel anxious, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Top of Head: I am held in God's Light
Eyebrow: And I trust
Side of Eye: God's Love and Light
Under Eye: Flows through me
Under Nose: Healing me and comforting me.
Then continue going around using the same phrases over and over.
Chin: I am held in God's Light
Collarbone: And I trust
Under Arm: God's Love and Light.
Top of Head: Flows through me.
Mantras and affirmations, although different, both work well because whatever we think about ourselves tends to manifest or come true. Helping you become a more positive, optimistic person is the goal.
Try This Today:
- Find a list of inspiring health mantras and find one that speaks to you.
- Put your mantra everywhere to get it to stick: on your mirror, at your desk, on the fridge, whatever it takes!
- Let other people know the mantra you're using to inspire yourself because hearing your mantra come from someone else's lips is twice as powerful. For example, "You are enough!"
Note: The difference between an affirmation and a mantra is mantras are highly powerful and have wondrous vibrational qualities that deliver a healing impact. Mantras can easily access your subconscious and reprogram your mind. Mantra chanting fine-tunes your focus immensely. Affirmations simply impact your belief system and bring changes to your psychology and attitude.
6. Turn Decisions into Habits
Of course, the best way to ensure that you make good health decisions every time is to switch to automatic habits. If you don't have to think about making a healthy choice, you're much more likely to make that choice consistently.
Try This Today:
- Set alarms on your phone to remind you of your motivation, whether they remind you to stay outward-focused, repeat an inspiring mantra, or save some willpower for the end of the day.
- Try making seasonal healthy eating an effortless habit. At the grocery store, head straight to your produce section. There are several reasons to eat seasonally. Our bodies desire to be in tune with the natural rhythm of the seasons. From nutrition to the environmental impact, where you source your food impacts your body and the community around you. "Hopefully, the above six tips will help you turn good choices into exceptional habits that can last a lifetime! Here is to your better health; today, tomorrow, and always.