Small changes BIG WINS!
Tiny tweaks are all it takes to make healthier lifestyle habits that you really can keep up, discovers Christabel Smith
Whether we want to lose weight, reduce stress or find more time away from technology, it’s tempting to set unrealistic goals. We can’t run the London Marathon when we’ve never jogged further than the front gate, and we know we won’t really rise at dawn to meditate for an hour a day. To make good habits last, keep them simple. Focus on the easy and the enjoyable because a healthier, happier life is no more than 30 seconds away. Here are your steps to success.
1. STOP JUDGING
To design new behaviours, you first need to stop judging yourself and embrace any mistakes as discoveries. Expert BJ Fogg understands it’s hard, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies, but self- blame is like a sledge slipping down old tracks on a snowy mountain. New ‘tiny habits’ will help you take a different route by making you feel good, not bad. They take less than half a minute of your time and he advises adopting three, or even just one. Whatever you choose (it could be as simple as putting an apple in your bag for a snack), you can start right now. ✢ DO IT Every single morning, as soon as your feet touch the floor, say, ‘It’s going to be a great day.’ Let the message sink in for a couple of seconds.
2. MANAGE MOTIVATION
Willpower and motivation can be fair-weather friends, so keeping changes bite-sized is the best way forward, says BJ Fogg. Ask yourself what new behaviour you want to adopt. You might say, ‘Bring down my stress levels.’ Write down all the ways you might do that, eg listening to a meditation app or leaving your phone out of the bedroom at night. Now rank them according to which you enjoy most. Matching yourself with what you want to do is the key to lasting change. ✢ DO IT If you find it hard to save, try writing cards with simple ways you could raise small amounts, like putting loose change in a jar or selling unwanted clothes. You’ll have enough to bank a small profit each month.
3. DON’T BE DERAILED
Psychologist Dayna Lee- Baggley describes other people as ‘passengers on the bus’ and warns that even well-meaning ones may get in the way of what you’re striving for. Imagine you’ve committed to a fitness class and bump into a friend on the way. ‘You are good, I’m not an exercise person,’ she winces. ‘Nor am I, really,’ you say, wanting to make her feel better. Sometimes, voices from the past tell us we’re unfit or lazy, and they need to be drowned out. ✢ DO IT Repeatedly say to yourself ‘I can’t lift my arm’ while lifting your arm. Notice how you can do precisely what you want – it’s an example of how you can defeat negative voices.
4. USE THE 90% RULE
When setting a health ambition, break it down until you’re 90% sure you can achieve it. Instead of declaring you’ll walk every day for 30 minutes, start by walking twice a week. It’ll feel great when you accomplish it – and when you feel successful, you’ll want to keep at it. ✢ DO IT Rather than deciding you’re going to cut out sugar forever, apply a more realistic biscuit reduction plan you’re 90% confident you can stick to.
5. DISTRACT YOURSELF
If someone tells you to not think about pink elephants, what happens? That’s right, pink Nellies parading all over the place. The first thing dieters consider, for example, is what food they’ll cut out, meaning they will think of little else, Dayna Lee-Baggley says. It’s more effective to focus on healthy habits, such as drinking more water. ✢ DO IT If you find you reach for the biscuits when watching TV, think about what you can do instead, such as knitting, to occupy your hands.
6. CELEBRATE WINS
Plants will begin to grow with just a few drops of water a day and it’s the same with habits. It’s nothing to do with perfection – just keeping them alive so they’re rooted in your routine. For example, if you’ve got into the groove of doing a body stretch every time you clean your teeth, it’s important to note your commitment and congratulate yourself on doing it day after day. ✢ DO IT Mini celebrations may include patting yourself on the back, doing a quick fist pump or thumbs-up, or saying ‘you did it!’ to yourself in the mirror.