It’s no secret that habits are built on repetition. And it makes sense- you do an activity enough times, it becomes an automatic behavior.
> Tie your shoes with your right hand? Habit.
> Watch Netflix at night before bed? Habit.
Try doing either of those activities in a way different than how you’re used to and suddenly your routine feels weird, awkward + unnatural.
Now, I’m not the type of person that likes to label habits as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but I certainly believe that certain habits help us achieve our goals while others take us farther from them.
The truth is, in every moment there are behaviors that are helpful while there are others that are hindering.
And unhealthy habits tend to be easier to adopt because truth be told they feel good in the moment.
> Watching 6 hours of our favorite Netflix show? No argument there, it feels good in the moment…
> Hitting the snooze button to catch a few more minutes of sleep rather than getting up early + starting our day? Yep, definitely feels good in the moment…
It’s human nature to follow the path of least resistance.
Which means that adding healthy habits into your daily routine can be difficult and can often feel like a lot of work.
So how can you add healthy habits into your routine without burning out?
In this blog post, I’m sharing with you 4 Simple Strategies to Make Healthy Habits Stick (for Good!). Keep reading, friend! You’re not going to want to miss this one!
Step 1 to Make Healthy Habits Stick: Create a “Placeholder habit”
Remember how I said earlier that habits thrive with repetition? The more often we repeat an action, the easier it becomes to replicate and the stronger our habit ultimately becomes.
The problem with repetition, especially when we’re talking about something like working-out, is that it’s not always practical to carry out the habit every day.
Think about it: if you’re in the beginning stages of your fitness journey, or if you’ve taken a break from working out- you’re body doesn’t respond well when you put too much stress on it.
In fact, your body will likely rebel against the idea of you trying to push it too far, too fast
> So how do we keep a healthy habit especially when it’s not something that’s able to be repeated on a daily basis?
If we’re only practicing our healthy habits two or three times a week- that means we have potentially 5 days where we’re practicing the opposite of our new habit. We’re doing nothing.
And this is where some women get stuck (I’ve been there myself). We don’t create enough momentum with our new habit so every time we try and practice it it feels like a lot of work.
It’s like trying to pedal a bike from a dead stop- it takes a lot more energy to produce movement.
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So, the trick to creating repetition with your healthy habits without actually practicing your habits is to adopt a placeholder habit.
A placeholder habit is a lighter version of the habit that you’re trying to adopt. It’s something that you do in place of the full on habit you want to add into your life- it’s sort of a way to to go through the motions without actually completing the habit itself.
It’s powerful because it holds space in your schedule. It’s a way to practice your new habit- using little energy- but you still rack up repetition points so you’re ultimately strengthening your habit.
Applied this concept to healthy living and a placeholder habit may be the smallest possible action you can take that will make you feel healthier.
For me, one of the placeholder habits that I use to keep my healthy habits in check is a simple 10-minute walk each + everyday.
At first glance this action doesn’t seem like much, but for me – this placeholder habit allows me to strengthen my exercise habit.
Building repetition is possible with this placeholder habit because even if I don’t have time to complete a full workout- I know that I can always find time to give myself just ten minutes.
So find what works for you- decide on a placeholder habit and ask yourself what’s the least amount of work that I can get away with that will still allow me to practice my healthy habits?
Step 2 to Make Healthy Habits Stick: Make The Action Feel Good In The Now
When a habit is rewarding in the moment, there’s more incentive for you to practice the habit.
The thing about healthy habits, in particular, is that they aren’t nearly as rewarding as their unhealthy counter parts.
Typically, it feels better to binge-watch your favorite t.v. episodes than it does to exercise for twenty minutes (at least in the moment!).
But in the moment, the rewards of sticking to our weight loss plan are almost invisible- making it harder to stay motivated to continue with our healthy habits.
- We don’t immediately see more tone + definition to our bodies after one workout.
- We don’t suddenly drop 5 pounds after eating one salad.
- And we don’t suddnely notice 6 pack abs after just 20 crunches on the living room floor.
So how can we make our healthy habits more rewarding?
We have to find a way to acknowledge the progress we’ve made- whether or not the evidence of our hard work is apparent.
Whoa! Sounds complicated, but I promise- it’s not!
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The simplest way that I’ve found to measure progress is to track my efforts using something as simple as a printable habit tracker.
Think of habit trackers as the adult version of those ‘sticker charts’ you enjoyed as a little kid. It’s a simple way of acknowledging the work that you’ve put in to make your goals a reality.
With each check mark that you rack up, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re inching your way closer to your goals
You can find a downloadable habit tracker just about anywhere online- just type ‘habit tracker’ into the Google search bar and you can find one that works for you.
Step 3 to Make Healthy Habits Stick: Find your Habit Changing ‘Sweet Spot’
Most of us set new habits like we do New Year’s Resolutions.
We get really excited about change. We decided that we’re tired of our own excuses and that this time is really it. We’re going to reach our health + fitness goals… and we decide that we’re going to do it all in one fail swoop- right?
Not only are we going to eat healthier and workout, but we’re going to start a new skin care routine, and we’re going to keep to this new cleaning schedule that keeps us on top of the housework, and we’re going to be the Pinterest perfect mom with the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe, and…
Does this sound familiar?
We over-commit and then feel guilty when it all falls apart a few weeks into the New Year.
When it comes to healthy habits, you need focus on adding or adjusting only a few at a time.
Change doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, it’s better if it doesn’t.
The idea of a habit making ‘sweet spot’ is that you make the change large enough that it makes an impact in your daily life but not so large that it disrupts your life and becomes work.
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You see, the less that we feel like change is invading our life, the less likely we are to resist it!
> If you’re normally a couch potato, changing to a 5-Day gym split is going to feel unnatural- unless the change is introduced incrementally.
> If you’re a coffee addict, dropping overnight to only drinking water may be a bit of a stretch.
But instead if you first switch to decaf and then maybe tea and then water- you’ll have more luck maintaining the new habit.
I often use the analogy of jumping into a cold pool to illustrate the importance of finding your habit changing ‘sweet spot’.
You see, for most of us, jumping head first into a cold pool of water is quite a shock to our body – we may have enjoyed the experience as kids, but nowadays it’s not something we do regularly.
When we ease ourselves into the cold water, we find that the experience is much more bearable.
In reality, both methods produce the same result – we end up in the water.
So if the result is the same, why not chose the one who’s process is more enjoyable?
Small, gradual change is the key to making healthy habits stick.
So I encourage you to be patient with your progress + experiment in finding exactly where your habit forming sweet spot lies- the more you work with your body and with your natural tendencies, the more you’ll be able to accomplish in the long run.
Step 4 to Make Healthy Habits Stick: Recover Quickly When You Go Off Track
We all know the drill, we mess up with our new habit somehow- we skip a day, we allow an old habit to take over momentarily- and instead of getting back on track right away, we wait.
We wait for a new day, a new week, and sometimes even a new month to start again because we enjoy the feeling of having a blank slate in front of us. We enjoy a fresh start.
But here’s the truth: the sooner you correct your misguidance, the less distance you have to travel to get back on track.
We’ve all been on a road trip before where we’ve taken a wrong turn- that’s normal!
What’s not normal is riding the wrong turn out just because we made the mistake.
When you make a wrong turn, you correct the action and get yourself back on track as fast as possible so that you don’t miss your destination.
It’s the same idea when it comes to your healthy habits.
You see, you get to rewrite your story every second of every day. You don’t need a new day, or new week to enjoy a fresh start- with every passing second you are presented with a new opportunity!
I can’t stress how important it is that you don’t allow your bad habits to get stronger by repeating them.
Let me give you an example: It’s not the fact that you eat an entire pizza while watching your favorite Netflix series that kills your diet. The problem is that you follow that up with two more days of unhealthy eating because you feel guilty for “messing up”.
The first misstep is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated “mistakes” that follows.
And that’s why it’s so important to get back on course whenever you find yourself taking an unexpected detour…
After all, anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work- but you don’t have to continue that streak.
Redirect + redirect quickly.
You have the power to welcome any number of healthy habits into your life.
And with a little bit of strategy (like the kind that I’ve shared in this blog post), healthy habits can be yours for the long-haul.
Here to support YOU! XO- Britney (ms.fit.farmer)
P.S. Looking for even more strategy to help you reach your health + fitness goals?
The strategies I’ve shared in this blog post are just SMALL portion of what I teach inside my 90-Day Signature Coaching Program, Sustainably YOU!
I help busy women, just like you, uncover the right strategies to make healthy living a sustainable part of life.
I’m not your typical fitness coach- I don’t just give you a meal plan and a workout schedule and expect you to fit it into your already full schedule. Instead, I work with you to teach you the right skills to make lasting change when it comes to your health.
Currently, I have room for a few more clients in my next round of coaching. So, if you’re thinking- that you’re tired of trying to figure this whole fitness thing out alone and that you want not only help, but also accountability and support to ensure that your healthy habits really take root, then click here to find out more!